How Police Discovered the Concealed Murders of the Chen Family

The Hidden Murders of the Chen Family in Fairfax County, Virginia

GREAT FALLS, VIRGINIA. Taiwan Family Vanishes. Although the Fairfax County Police had no idea that the family was missing, Edward Chen’s ex-girlfriend reported that a triple murder had occurred. 

In the spring of 2002, the Fairfax County Police Department received a phone call from Vickie Henry, who claimed that Wu-Hung, Weh-Mei, and Raymond Chen had been killed in August 1995. Neither of them was reported missing up until then, and their neighbors theorized that the family might have returned to Taiwan. Although the police were initially reluctant to believe Vickie, she stuck to her story.

No one ever became suspicious of the Chen family’s whereabouts because Edward concocted stories to relatives that they died in a car accident. He would maintain the house’s exterior for neighborhood appearances and ensure no one entered the home.

Taiwan natives Wu-Hung and Weh-Mei Chen frequented their Great Falls residence in Fairfax, Virginia, to visit their two sons, Raymond and Edward. While the family was considered good-natured and quite generous, people who knew them mentioned how they would frequently travel back to Taiwan. The Chens were reasonably well-off and managed to send their children to prestigious schools in Fairfax, along with owning five properties in the U.S. They lived a quiet, uneventful life, and people had no idea about the tragedy that would befall the family.

The police could not take Vickie for her word since there was nothing to indicate that a murder had even occurred in the first place. Nevertheless, she convinced authorities to start an investigation and helped them contact Edward’s ex-wife, Mandy Kolbe, to corroborate her story. Once questioned, Mandy said her relationship with Edward was challenging since his family was against the union. She also reported that she had been living in fear.

Edward Chen’s Motive

Mandy and Edward kept meeting up in secret. While attending the University of Virginia, he provided a separate apartment for Mandy.

His family vehemently disapproved of their relationship. They ordered him to return to Taiwan. After a few months, he returned to Virginia and called Mandy. He told her that his family was no longer a problem and claimed that no one would stop them from living together ever again.

He took Mandy to his family’s home and showed her how he had handled the situation. She saw his brother Raymond lying face up in his bed; he was dead. He then took her into his parent’s bedroom. They were both dead. He reportedly told her that he did it so they could be together without interference from his family.

The family’s bodies were left to rot in their mansion. Their bodies lay undisturbed for four years.

However, Mandy allegedly never reported the incident to the police out of fear. She and Edward had a child together and would marry.

Fairfax County Police Investigation

Realizing that a triple homicide may have occurred, the police immediately got in touch with the Chens’ relatives from Taiwan, who reported that Edward had informed them how a car accident claimed Wu-Hung, Weh-Mei, and Raymond’s lives.

During interviews, people living near the Chen residence reported that after 1995, Edward often came over to maintain the house’s exterior to give it a lived-in vibe. Investigators discovered that he had sold the house in 1999 when a pipe burst and caused flooding.

Nonetheless, it was impossible to mount a case without bodies. Despite Edward’s former friend, Michael Reese, claiming he helped clean up the crime scene and dumped the bodies in the Chesapeake Bay, the police were unable to locate them. Forensic evidence was needed.

Chen’s friend, an auto mechanic, reported that he was offered $100,000 and a BMW to help remove the dead bodies from the house. He agreed. He dismembered the bodies, placed body parts in plastic trash bags, poured concrete in the bags, left them to harden, and then dropped the bags in the Chesapeake Bay. Since the statute of limitations for accessory had expired, the friend was not convicted.

A search of the Chens’ former residence revealed dried-up blood stains under the new hardwood floors, which matched his father Wu-Hung’s blood, and convinced the police of Edward’s involvement.

Vickie also managed to make Edward partially confess to the murders over the phone, and the police wasted no time in arresting him. After an 11-day investigation, Edward Chen was arrested at his apartment. His 5-year-old daughter was with him at the time.

When Detective Steve Shillingford interviewed Edward, he appeared well-spoken, articulated and educated. He confessed to killing his family because they disapproved of his relationship with his girlfriend, and they were trying to break them up.

He said one night, he got the courage and shot his family. Edward said he kept them in the house for four years, but he had to move them when a pipe burst and the house was destroyed.

With the help from a friend, he dumped their dismembered bodies in the Chesapeake Bay. As for his extended family in Taiwan, he told them that Wu-Hung, Weh-Mei, and Raymond died in a car accident, which is why they were never reported missing.

The court initially considered Edward’s confession in police custody inadmissible, but Mandy, Michael, and Vickie’s testimonies helped strengthen the case. As part of a plea agreement, Edward eventually pled guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and admitted that he had purchased a rifle and shot Wu-Hung, Weh-Mei, and Raymond Chen.

Vickie was discovered to be paying his attorney’s fees with funds siphoned from Edward’s parent’s accounts.

Edward Chen was sentenced to 36 years at the Baskerville Correctional Center in Baskerville, Virginia, and will be released in August 2033.

The Chen Family

Wu-Hung and Yeh-Mei Chen came to the United States with savings from their contracting business. They purchased several real estate properties.

They planned to save their sons, Raymond and Edward, from Taiwan’s mandatory military service and give them a better life. Once here, the family settled in a suburb of Washington, DC.

The Chens bought an upscale home on two acres and invested in four other residential properties. Raymond, the eldest son, went to college and majored in business to manage the family holdings.

Plow & Hearth

But the family plan began to unravel when young Edward fell in love with Mandy, a high-school dropout and teenage mom. His mother objected; this was not the “nice Chinese girl” she wanted for her son. Yeh-Mei was hurt and angry, and she badgered Edward to stop seeing Mandy. Edward fought with her, and there were heated family arguments. 

Finally, the stress Edward was feeling became unbearable. He bought a 30-30 Winchester rifle at K-Mart and shot his mother, father, and brother in their beds.

Edward told Mandy they could now be together. He told neighbors and relatives back in Taiwan that his parents and brother had died in an auto accident. He locked up the house, with the victims still inside, and moved in with Mandy.

Edward lived off rental incomes for a while, but with expensive tastes and mounting bills, decided to start selling the family properties. All Chen properties were held in a family trust, with Raymond Chen appointed trustee. Edward got a new driver’s license with his photo and Raymond’s name. Edward went about selling the properties, impersonating his dead brother. 

The family home was the last to be sold. It was now more than four years since the murders, and the victims had yet to be removed. While it sat vacant, a water pipe had failed and flooded much of the house. Floors, walls, and carpeting were damaged or ruined. There was mold. He offered the house “as is” at a big discount. A young couple bought the house and rehabilitated it from top to bottom.

Edward got a new girlfriend, and they began to live together. In an unguarded moment, he told the girlfriend that he’d killed his parents and brother. The girlfriend saw the danger and eventually went to the police.

The police interviewed Mandy, who also knew of the killings.

Following the investigation, Edward was arrested. Edward was surprised to be arrested and made a taped confession. But when the confession was thrown out, as Edward had not been read his Miranda rights, Fairfax County Prosecutors became worried about their case. They had no murder weapon and couldn’t find the victims’ remains. All they had to go on were statements of an ex-wife and former girlfriend.

However, buyers of the five Chen properties have big problems. They realized deeds they got from Raymond Chen as trustee of the family trust were forgeries. The deeds were void, and ownership of the properties remained in the trust.

The trust, it turned out, had as beneficiaries the father, mother, and their “descendants.”  Upon the death of the parents and all descendants, trust assets would be given to a hospital in Taiwan.

After the killings, the only “descendant” was Edward. His daughter would be born two years later.  But the law says that a killer can’t benefit from the death of his victim (the so-called “Slayer’s Rule”), so Edward could not inherit the trust assets. But what about Edward’s daughter? Was her inheritance also barred by the Slayer’s Rule?

For these buyers, this was an enigma. What to do?

The buyers had title insurance, and title companies paid for lawsuits to quit the title. A legal guardian was appointed for Edward’s minor daughter. In time, the hospital released its claims. Title companies contributed to a $1.2 million settlement with the daughter, and five titles were confirmed by court order. The buyers received new deeds recorded in Fairfax County land records.

Why Did Edward Chen Commit a Triple Homicide?

In my opinion, Edward Chen and his girlfriend could’ve moved to another state. He had enough funds to support them and could avoid his family’s criticism and disapproval.

Court Gives Man 36 Years for Murdering His Family (Taipei Times, Taiwan News)

This case left the Chinese-American community scratching its head, unable to comprehend why Chen did it and what happened entirely.

“He did it for Mandy and money.” That’s how one police investigator explained the tragedy of the Chen family that led to Taiwan-born Edward Chen (陳逸), then 19, shooting his parents and brother to death in their home in the Washington suburb of Great Falls, Virginia, in August 1995.

Edward Chen murdered his family, police records show, because his parents objected to his serious romance with Mandy Kolbe, a girl he met while attending high school in Herndon, Virginia, in 1991.

Chen’s father, Chen Wu-hung (陳武宏), ran Super Enterprise Company, Ltd, a Taipei company that installed air-conditioning systems in large commercial buildings.

His mother, Chen Shieh Yeh-mei (陳謝月美), worked for the Taipei Engineering Development Co in Taipei.

Edward and his older brother, Raymond (陳磊), were sent to the U.S. when they were young to be educated. Eventually, their parents bought a house in Great Falls for them, one of five properties the Chens would eventually purchase.

The parents spent most of their time in Taipei and stayed at the Great Falls house on visits.

When the tensions between Edward and Mandy—and between Edward and his family—became too great, Edward one day entered the house and shot dead his brother Raymond and both his parents.

He left the bodies in the home for four years, keeping the lawn mowed and the property maintained so neighbors would not get suspicious.

He told anybody who asked that his parents died in a car accident in Taipei. In Tawain, he told relatives that the parents died in a crash in the U.S.

The deceit may have worked well because the two sides of the family were estranged, having split in a rift many years earlier.

An uncle on the mother’s side got the family into the U.S. originally, but in the Washington area, they often stayed with two sisters on the father’s side, one in Virginia and one in Washington.

The parents objected to Mandy because she wasn’t Chinese. Raymond said as much in a letter to her just before the killings in which he quipped, “learning karate chops and eating Chinese food is not enough” to satisfy the parents.

After Edward entered the University of Virginia, and the parents were unsuccessful in breaking up his romance, they took their son to Taipei for psychiatric treatment. Within 10 days of the family’s return to Virginia in August 1995, the murders took place. Two years later, Edward and Mandy, now parents of a daughter, were wed.

In 1998, Edward began identifying himself as Raymond and started selling off the family’s property, allowing him to live regally. But he also developed a bad temper, ran afoul of the law, and a year later, Mandy divorced him. It is unclear when during that period she found out about the parents’ deaths.

That winter, a frozen pipe burst in the Great Falls house, and Edward enlisted a friend, Michael Reese, to take the bodies, wrap them in duffel bags weighted down with concrete, and throw them into the Chesapeake Bay.

It was Chen’s next girlfriend, Vickie Henry, who finally turned him in. She phoned the police in March after Chen told her of the killings. Henry, Mandy, and Reese became three witnesses against Chen. The case was the first in Virginia’s history where “murder one” charges were brought in the absence of a corpse.

Although the Fairfax County Police Department made great efforts to locate the Chen Family in the Chesapeake Bay, they were never able to find their bodies.

Helpful Community Resources

File a Financial Crimes Report Online—Fairfax County, Virginia

File a Police Report Online—Fairfax County, Virginia

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How Police Discovered the Concealed Murders of the Chen Family in Fairfax County, Virginia