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Judge upholds $20 million bond for MIT researcher accused of killing Army National Guard officer Kevin Jiang after Supreme Court orders review.

2nd Lt. Kevin Jiang buried at the State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown, CT on Feb. 16, 2021. (Tim Koster/Connecticut National Guard)

A second New Haven judge has ruled the MIT researcher accused of murdering Yale grad student Kevin Jiang earlier this spring should remain held in lieu of $20 million bond after the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a review of the potentially record-setting amount.

Judge Gerald Harmon ruled Wednesday that 30-year-old Qinxuan Pan remains an “acute” flight risk after eluding local and federal authorities for more than three months this spring following the murder and that his original, extraordinary bond is appropriate.

“The court feels he is an acute risk of flight and also a danger to the public and possibly himself,” Harmon concluded. “The court feels that the bond that was set by Judge [Brian] Fischer in the amount of $20 million is appropriate to ensure the safety of the community, safety of himself and also his appearance in court.”

Pan is accused of fatally shooting Jiang in early February not far from Yale’s campus just a week after the 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran proposed to a woman Pan had known during their studies at MIT last year. Pan vanished after the murder, prompting a three-month nationwide manhunt that finally ended in mid-May when federal agents found him renting an Alabama apartment under an alias with more than $19,000 cash and his father’s passport.

Pan was ordered held on $20 million bond by Fischer when he was first arraigned in New Haven a week after his capture, which is believed to be the highest bond ever set in a Connecticut case, even though it was well below the $50 million prosecutors initially sought after telling Fischer the Pan family is very wealthy. Pan’s defense attorney William Gerace appealed the extraordinary bond and the state Supreme Court intervened early this month to order another review of the amount.

On Wednesday morning, Gerace argued the bond should be reduced to $2 million and noted that Harmon himself set bond at just $5 million when he signed an arrest warrant charging Pan with murder at the end of February.

But Pan would remain on the lam for more than two months after that warrant was issued as Connecticut and federal investigators tried to track him from an initial encounter with North Haven police 30 minutes after the killing, down the eastern seaboard to Georgia and eventually to Montgomery, Alabama, where U.S. marshals discovered him hiding under an alias with the cash, his father’s passport and multiple cellphones, according to prosecutors and court records.

During those months, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner concluded Jiang had been executed with five gunshots to his face and head, plus additional gunshots down his torso, one arm and one leg, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Stacey Miranda revealed for the first time Wednesday.

“The homicide was extremely brutal in nature and extremely violent,” she said.

Detectives also began to investigate Pan’s parents after learning they apparently helped their son leave Connecticut the morning after the murder, driving with him down the East Coast and sharing little to no information with authorities when they were contacted, Miranda said. They paid cash for hotels, laptops and prepaid phones and even used other people’s cell phones along the way, she added.

“The state believes this is an attempt to avoid being located,” Miranda said Wednesday. “It should be noted that the parents were notified … that the defendant was wanted for a homicide in the city of New Haven. The parents are currently under investigation for hindering prosecution and rendering criminal assistance to the defendant in helping him to avoid capture.”

U.S. Treasury financial crimes investigators also alerted prosecutors that their teams have repeatedly flagged wire transfers from China of “very large amounts of money” to accounts in Pan and his parents’ names from 2014 to 2020, Miranda revealed Wednesday. Pan was born in Shanghai but has lived in the U.S. since 2007 and is an American citizen, Gerace has said, but prosecutors and court records have suggested he may have been preparing to flee to China before his capture.

The Pan family now is believed to have “substantial financial assets” in the millions of dollars, Miranda said, despite Gerace’s claim that Pan has no accounts, owns no property or cars and until his arrest received only a $3,000 monthly stipend for his research at MIT as his sole source of income.

Harmon reiterated many of those case facts in outlining the reasons for the unusually high bond Wednesday, as the state Supreme Court stipulated in its order for the review.

“Very disappointed, I expected a significant reduction in bond,” Gerace said after the hearing. He plans to appeal the bond decision again to the Connecticut Supreme Court, but it remains to be seen whether or how the high court would take up the matter.

Gerace has acknowledged the state already has presented a very strong case again Pan but suggested during the hearing Wednesday that it is possible, based on initial witness accounts of the shooting involving two people or a Black man, that Pan did not act alone. Prosecutors have noted the weapon used to kill Jiang — which has never been recovered — was used in four other area shots fired incidents in the days and weeks before Jiang’s death, including one in Hamden an hour before the murder and another the afternoon before in New Haven.

“It’s in the realm of possibility that my client hypothetically was present but not the shooter,” Gerace said. “The 911 calls indicate two people in an SUV. I point that out because the state is going to, I’m sure, rely on some DNA analysis, but it doesn’t preclude that someone else was the shooter.”

The only apparent connection between Jiang and Pan was through Jiang’s fiancée, 22-year-old Zion Perry, whom Pan knew from her time studying at MIT, records show.

Perry told police the pair never had any romantic relationship and she had not seen him or heard from him since May 2020, but license plate reader data showed Pan’s mother’s vehicle had traveled to New Haven twice last fall — at one point coming within 1,000 feet of Perry’s apartment, Miranda and court records indicated. At Pan’s arraignment in May, Fischer issued a protective order barring Pan from having any contact whatsoever with a woman with the initials “ZP.”

Jiang’s family was in court Wednesday and issued a written statement afterward through attorney William Dow lauding the investigation and expressing confidence that Pan will be held “fully accountable.”

“We are devastated by the tragic, cold-blooded and premeditated killing of our son, Kevin,” the statement began. “He was an exceptional person; an outstanding student, a veteran who had served his country and a person who wanted to work to make this world a better place. There are no words to express the pain we experience.

“We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement and the prosecution. We respect the court’s ruling,” the statement continued. “The defendant tried to run away from his crime and hid for three months until his capture. However, we have confidence that justice will be fully served for Kevin and his family, and the defendant will be held fully accountable for the horrible crime he committed and punished to the full extent of the law. The pain we feel is unbearable.”


©2021 Hartford Courant

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