Murder Case Suspended as Suspect Held Incompetent

A former Glendale restaurant owner who attempted suicide during his trial on murder charges has been ruled incompetent and will be placed in a mental hospital.

Pasadena Superior Court Judge Robert M. Olson ordered Wen Lee placed in a state institution for an indefinite period after two psychiatrists found him incompetent to stand trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Barbara Murphy said.

Olson declared a mistrial in the case on June 30 after Deputy Public Defender Bennett T. Mori reported that Lee attempted to kill himself in the county jail. Mori said Lee's mental health was deteriorating to an extent that he could not assist in his own defense.

If his condition improves, new charges can be filed.

Lee, 64, is charged in the death of Tuai Li-Chun and the attempted slaying of her husband, Johnny Soong, in the former Uncle Lee's Chinese Restaurant on South Brand Boulevard. Soong had testified that he was planning to buy the restaurant from Lee, but could not make a $5,000 payment in escrow that he had promised by April 30, 1987, the day of the shootings.

During the trial, the prosecution had played part of a taped conversation that Lee made to the Glendale Police Department the day after the shootings. Lee said he had intended to kill Soong and then himself after the business deal soured. The tape, in Chinese, was translated by a police interpreter.

Murphy said attorneys will return to court Aug. 2, when the court will decide where Lee will be placed.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World