SANTA ANA, Calif.—A 55-year-old man pleaded guilty on Sept. 27 and was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for fatally stabbing a semi-retired California State University–Fullerton administrator four years ago.
Chuyen Van Vo pleaded guilty to murder and grand theft by embezzlement and admitted sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon and murder by means of lying in wait. A special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain was dismissed.
Mr. Vo killed 57-year-old Steven Shek Keung Chan of Hacienda Heights in a parking lot of the university about 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2019.
Mr. Vo's attorney, Ed Welbourn, said his client wanted to spare his family and Mr. Chan's family a trial.
"He wanted to spare the victim's family and his family the pain and continued suffering of this incident, including a trial," Mr. Welbourn told City News Service. "He felt he knew what he did and wanted to confess to it. He feels very badly about what he did and wanted to put an end to the family's suffering."
The motive for the killing appeared to be evidence surfacing at the time of Mr. Vo's embezzlement from the university, according to testimony at the defendant's preliminary hearing. He was accused of stealing $206,000 by filing bogus invoices from a fake company he set up and pocketing the money, police testified.
A construction worker in the parking lot at 2600 Nutwood Ave. heard a loud commotion behind him while talking to his boss on the phone the morning of the killing. He saw the victim and defendant face to face, with the suspect appearing to repeatedly punch the victim, police testified.
Mr. Vo shoved Mr. Chan back into his Infiniti and ran away as the construction worker confronted him, police said.
Police found the defendant's backpack at the crime scene. It contained zip ties, an incendiary device, a wig, gloves, a watch, a handwritten note, sun shade and knife, police said. The note was written on a paper that contained a phone number leading to the defendant's tax preparation business in Westminster, police said.
Mr. Chan had retired but he was brought back part-time to investigate irregularities in invoicing at the university and the staff was closing in on Mr. Vo's scam, police testified. Mr. Chan had previously been Mr. Vo's supervisor in the same office for international student admissions.