A man seeking early parole for the 2006 first degree murder of a River Rock casino loan shark broke down during testimony Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court.
Chu Ming Feng was convicted in 2009 of the May 26, 2006 killing of Rong Lilly Li and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He did not testify at his trial, where his defence lawyer advanced the theory that accomplice Guo Wei Liang gave him an intoxicating water that temporarily clouded his judgment.
During the second day of his faint hope clause hearing, Feng had been testifying in Cantonese through an interpreter, but switched to English for the emotional outburst.
“I want to say sorry to the victim. Secondly, I want to say sorry to her daughter, because I killed her mom,” Feng said before Justice George Macintosh and a jury.
“She's without her mom, growing up. She might hate me, I cannot stop her from hating me, but if I can, I would ask for [her to] forgive me.”
Feng and Liang abducted Li in a rented minivan in Richmond, strangled her with a belt and buried her body the next day at Jericho Beach. Feng has been in custody since September 2006, after he delivered a letter to the Richmond RCMP confessing to the crime and apologizing for lying to detectives.
After 15 years in jail, Feng became eligible to seek a reduced sentence. The jury could decide to recommend the Parole Board of Canada free Feng earlier than his statutory 2031 release.
Court heard that Feng studied in jail for his high school diploma and took courses in English as a second language and level one first aid. He was moved to minimum security at Mission Institution in 2021.
He explained that after he lost his appeal in 2012, he decided by 2016 to take responsibility for the crime and tell the truth.
“I couldn't continue to live my life,” Feng said. “I have a lot of guilt in life.”
Feng told court that “gambling caused the murder.”
He said he worked for $2,000 a month at a fish market with Liang and gambled every other day at a casino with $20 or $50. The addiction eventually led to a divorce and he went to a casino daily, often bringing $1,000 with him. He racked up a $10,000 credit card debt.
Feng testified about the motive and the method. He said Liang predicted Li would have $150,000 to $300,000 in casino chips in her possession and he understood that he would likely kill Li after the robbery.
“He said that if I go to help him, then his plan would be for me to follow his signal. When he loosens up the seatbelt, then I will start to pull the woman's hair and strangle her neck,” Feng said.
They were shocked to discover how little she carried at the time of the crime: $500 in cash and $2,000 in casino chips.
“That woman was so smart, she didn't bring the money,” Feng said.
Feng told court that he grew up an only child in Guangdong Province in China and worked in a relative’s garment factory after completing school. At age 22 in 1999, he moved to Canada, where an aunt lived in Surrey, in order to seek a better life.
"Because there's a lot of corruption in China. It was not a very good society,” he said.
By 2004, he became a Canadian citizen, intrigued by Canada’s differences, such as democracy and warm-hearted people.
“They are not like people in China, they always just think about money,” he said.
Feng said his parents still live in China, but he last communicated with them in 2012 or 2013, when they told him never to contact them again.
“Just think that we never have this son, you are useless,” he said they told him. “I bring shame to the family.”
Crown prosecutor Jeremy Hermanson asked Feng about his interview for an October 2020 psychological assessment, in which he said that he declined Liang’s initial proposal and claimed “it just happened” after he agreed when Liang called him a second time.
Under cross-examination, Feng admitted to Hermanson that the crime was not spontaneous, that it had been planned for three weeks.
Feng also testified that Liang was a loan shark who had worked with Li, but later clarified that Liang had been a debt collector for a loan shark and was only working at the fish market when the crime happened.
“You never inquired what your cut would be?” Hermanson asked.
“No,” Feng replied.
“You were prepared to kill somebody without knowing what you would get in return?” Hermanson asked.
Feng replied: “I was hoping that he would give me half.”
The hearing continues Wednesday.