The Anatomy of Public Corruption

Obit: Fang v. Bennett (2000)

How killer cased victim's home

Published 4:00 am, Saturday, January 8, 2000

MARTINEZ - Mesa Kasem, who died Tuesday in a failed home robbery invasion, first visited the targeted Alamo home in November while delivering an item the doctor's family had purchased at an auction.

Kasem, who was employed at the time as a deliveryman and laborer for Somerset Auction Santa Clara, dropped off the item at the home of Kim and Winnie Fang, two well-known East Bay doctors, on Nov. 10. The item, which police would not identify, had been purchased by the Fangs three days earlier, investigators said.

Detectives now believe that after visiting the Fang home, Kasem decided to return and rob it.

"He must have seen something there that he liked," Capt. George Lawrence of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department said Friday of Kasem's Nov. 10 visit to the Fang residence.

On Tuesday night, Kasem, 22, returned to Alamo allegedly with fellow Stockton gang member Soknoeun Nem, driving a car they rented in Stockton and carrying a semiautomatic handgun police believe they stole in another robbery on Monday. Lawrence said they burst into the Fang home intent on robbery, but instead encountered fierce resistance from the well-armed doctor and his family.

In the fight and shootout that followed, Kasem and Kim Fang,

49, were killed. Nem, 21, and Winnie Fang, 45, were wounded. Nem was also beaten by family members. The family's nanny, Melee Jung, suffered head injuries when she was pistol-whipped.

Sheriff's deputies say that Kasem and Nem acted alone. "We believe there were no other accomplices," Lawrence said.

But investigators are combing the records of the Somerset Auction Co. to determine if any other homes Kasem visited as a deliveryman have been robbed or burglarized. They do not believe the men committed any other crimes in Contra Costa County, but Lawrence said that his department will send out a Teletype on the case to every law enforcement agency in the state.

Reviewing unsolved crimes

Stockton police also said Friday they were trying to determine whether Nem and Kasem are linked to any unsolved crimes in that city. Police confirmed that they were reviewing unsolved robberies and burglaries.

Police said Kasem may have taken part in a home invasion robbery Monday in Stockton of a family that purchased goods through Somerset auctions years ago. One of two 9mm handguns that investigators say was used in the Alamo robbery attempt Tuesday was stolen during that robbery, but police said it didn't appear that Kasem

ever visited the Stockton home in the course of his employment at the auction house.

Stockton resident Kim Chau told the Stockton Record she believes Kasem was among four masked men who robbed her Monday. She said the men left her home with the 9mm pistol and a .22-caliber weapon, her gold necklace, a ring, a diamond pendant and children's jewelry. They also took about $3,200 in cash, she said. She said investigators told her that Kasem probably targeted her through purchase records kept at Somerset Auctions.

Somerset Auctions was closed Friday and no one from the company could be reached for comment. Officer Doug Anderson, spokesman for the Stockton Police Department, confirmed Friday that Kasem and Nem were considered suspects in the Chau robbery, but declined further comment.

Chau said she and her husband attend many auctions in many cities, and went to Somerset Auctions in Santa Clara several years ago.

Paroled felon

Kasem, a paroled felon who was nearly deported back to his native Cambodia last year, worked at the auction house from the beginning of November until just before Christmas. He left the job without notice during the holidays. At the time he was staying with his girlfriend in the South Bay but fre

quently visited his old North Stockton neighborhood on weekends, investigators said. Investigators believe that is where he linked up with Nem, who is also a Cambodian native.

Stockton police said Kasem had four felony arrests dating back to 1994. He had been arrested at least twice for felonies involving firearms. But Anderson, of the Stockton Police Department, declined to give details, saying that most of the arrests occurred when Kasem was a juvenile.

Lawrence said that investigators "may never know" the exact sequence of events during the shootout at the Fang home Tuesday. Investigators were hoping to interview Winnie Fang to hear her side of the incident. Winnie Fang, an anesthesiologist, has been released from the hospital after treatment for her gunshot wound.

"It is still unclear who shot first (and) who fired the fatal shots into Dr. Fang," Lawrence said.

The two men forced their way into the house after Winnie Fang opened the door to see who was outside. She resisted. Her husband, who was working upstairs, came downstairs with a .38-caliber handgun and opened fire on the intruders, apparently hitting Kasem three times - in the temple, chest and upper thigh, Lawrence said.

In the exchange, Kim Fang was shot twice in the back. Both

rounds exited his chest. He died at the scene. Lawrence said it was not clear if Fang was retreating from the gunmen or if one of the robbers surprised him from behind.

Nem was being held without bail at the Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez on Friday pending charges. Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett said his office may charge him with murder for Fang's death as early as next week. He said Nem may also be charged for Kasem's murder under California's "provocative act" law. That law allows someone who participated in a violent felony that left an accomplice dead to be charged with the murder of the deceased criminal.

Nem will likely be charged with one or more counts of attempted robbery, as well, he said.

Jewett said that Nem is currently being held on a parole violation to give prosecutors and investigators more time to build their case. <

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