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Taiwan's Supreme Court upholds sentences handed down to 3 convicted of 1998 murder

17-year-old's murder case went cold until 2019, when anonymous witness came forward to give police much-needed break

The Supreme Court (Taiwan Supreme Court photo)

The Supreme Court (Taiwan Supreme Court photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Supreme Court on Monday (March 21) upheld the 14-year sentences handed down to a man and two women convicted of murdering a 17-year-old girl 24 years ago.

The victim, surnamed Lin (林), worked at a betel nut stall run by Pan Tzu-chien (潘子鑑) and several others. In December 1998, Pan, who was fulfilling his mandatory military service at the time, became worried Lin might report his drug use and also grew suspicious she had embezzled funds from the stall. He colluded with his girlfriend Chen Yu-shih (陳諭詩), friend Wu Chang-hung (吳昶弘), and an underage girl surnamed Chen (陳) to lock Lin in a room on the second floor of the business and abuse her.

Pan and his accomplices were later accused of using baseball bats and machetes to murder Lin and then burning and abandoning her body on a roadside in Taoyuan's Pingzhen District. As there were no surveillance cameras nearby, no identifying documents found, and no relatives coming forward to claim the body, the authorities took DNA samples and classified it as unclaimed.

The case went cold until 2019, when an anonymous witness came forward to give police a much-needed break in the case. Following the leads the witness provided, the police found Lin’s family. A DNA match confirmed the unclaimed body as Lin’s, and the case was reopened, which led to the arrest of the four perpetrators, CNA reported.

Wu fled abroad during the investigation and is still at large. Pan and Chen Yu-shih were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Taoyuan District Court, and the girl surnamed Chen who was a minor at the time of the crime was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison by a juvenile court.

The three appealed the sentences at the Taiwan High Court, which took Pan and Chen's youth and immature thinking at the time into consideration and sentenced each to 14 years and six months. The court also ruled that the then-minor did not play a leading role in the crime and sentenced her to 14 years and two months.

The defendants lodged appeals against the Taiwan High Court's sentences. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected their appeals and upheld the lower court’s sentences.