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Doctor, a Thai Immigrant, Found Fatally Stabbed in Newport

Times Staff Writer

A 45-year-old ophthalmologist who emigrated from Thailand 10 years ago and opened a practice in Santa Ana was found stabbed to death Thursday in his oceanfront duplex in Newport Beach, police said.

The body of Boonkert Chulapatrcheevin was found Thursday at about 11 a.m. by his younger brother after the doctor failed to show up for his scheduled appointments at his office on Fairview Street, police and family sources said.

The doctor’s brother-in-law, Sam Nuntavicharna, said the clinic staff waited for him to arrive Thursday. When he didn’t, Nuntavicharna said, the doctor’s younger brother went to the Newport Beach duplex and found the body.

Chulapatrcheevin, or Chula, as he was known professionally, apparently was murdered Wednesday night, authorities said. Police have no witnesses, no suspects and no apparent motive for the killing, Newport Beach Police Department spokesman Robert Oakley said. Investigators still were studying the crime scene for clues late Thursday night.

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Tenants living in the other half of Chulapatrcheevin’s duplex, in the 2300 block of West Ocean Front on the Balboa Peninsula, said they heard “strange noises” and calls for help about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday night, Oakley said. They went outside, but after not seeing or hearing anything more, they went back inside, he added.

Fifteen minutes later, the tenants heard the victim’s car start up in the garage below their duplex, Oakley said. The car, a white 1988 Mercedes 560 SL, reportedly scraped against the side of the garage as it pulled out.

Police have issued a warrant for the car, a convertible hardtop with a blue interior; the license plate number is 2HQU260, Oakley said.

A neighbor from across the narrow street, Zeke Torok, said he saw a man staring at Chulapatrcheevin’s front door at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Later, Torok said he also heard high-pitched cries for help. He said he thought the sound came from a parrot, owned by a neighbor who lives in the alley behind his house. Torok said he looked out the window and, seeing nothing, returned to watching television.

Chulapatrcheevin, a lifelong bachelor, studied medicine at Chulalongkorn Hospital University of Medical Sciences in Thailand, a spokeswoman for the state Board of Medical Quality Assurance said. He obtained a license to practice medicine in California in May, 1978, and was in good standing, she added.

Chulapatrcheevin practiced alone in a professional building next to the Santa Ana Hospital Medical Center, and he served patients from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including many Southeast Asians and Latinos, according to Alan Fell, a pharmacist in the building.

“It’s not a real high-class area, but he was really good,” Fell said. “He was a real, real nice man, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about his eye surgery.”

Chulapatrcheevin was on a medical staff that served both Santa Ana Hospital Medical Center and Doctors’ Hospital of Santa Ana. He sat on the surgery committee, as well as several ad hoc committees, and was “very bright, very pleasant,” Dr. Donald Daniels said, who was chief of staff for the hospitals in 1987 and 1988.

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“There has never been anything negative as far as his work is concerned,” Daniels said. “His name hardly came up. I was shocked to find out.”

The dead man’s brother-in-law, Nuntavicharna, said that Chulapatrcheevin had become a U.S. citizen and had acquired several properties in Orange and surrounding counties, although that could not be confirmed immediately by checking property records.

Bought Duplex in ’83

The records did show, however, that Chula bought the peeling, yellow and brown oceanfront duplex, several blocks north of the Newport Pier, in 1983 for $340,000.

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Chulapatrcheevin had many friends, and no enemies, his brother-in-law said. The eye doctor enjoyed living at the beach and was proud of his new car, Nuntavicharna said. Neighbors recalled that he was quiet and was often seen during the summer barbecuing on his patio with relatives.

“We feel very bad,” Nuntavicharna said. “He was a nice person. He (helped) people a lot.”

No services were yet planned for Chulapatrcheevin, a Buddhist.

On Thursday afternoon, curious onlookers surrounded the taped-off area while deputies awaited a search warrant to begin their investigation of the duplex and remove Chulapatrcheevin’s body. Waiting for such search warrants before entering a crime scene is standard procedure, Oakley said.

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“It makes me nervous,” said neighbor Debbie Smith, 29, who moved in three houses down the block this month. “I’d like to get a feel for it. Like if we’re in danger or not.”

Times staff writer Carla Rivera contributed to this story.


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