A Columbia man was sentenced yesterday to life in prison plus 30 years for shooting to death his estranged wife and seriously wounding her daughter last year outside the Howard County Circuit Courthouse in Ellicott City.
Tuse S. Liu, 51, stood quietly as Judge Diane O. Leasure delivered the sentence, saying that Liu "made a conscious decision" to murder his wife that afternoon.
"Your actions were coldly calculated and premeditated," Leasure said.
Liu, who did not speak or apologize during the hearing, pleaded guilty in March to first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and use of a handgun in a felony.
On March 11, 1999, Liu shot and killed his wife, So Shan Chan, 52, in what witnesses described as a public execution. He also seriously injured Chan's daughter, Wing Wu, 27, who tried to fend off his attack with a computer-science textbook.
At yesterday's sentencing, prosecutors called Liu an "evil" man who was upset about being ordered to pay alimony to Chan after their divorce hearing.
"This is a man who gave a great deal of thought to taking a life," said prosecutor I. Matthew Campbell. "He hunted down So Shan Chan."
The shooting traumatized not only the victims and witnesses, Campbell said, but also everyone who uses the Ellicott City courthouse.
"We are entitled to take our cases to court, to leave this courthouse safely to abide by the court's decision," Campbell said. "[Liu] shattered that right."
Liu's defense attorney, public defender Louis P. Willimen, said his client suffered from severe depression and other mental disorders that clouded his judgment.
Willimen also requested that Leasure recommend to state corrections officials that Liu be sentenced to the Patuxent Institution, a maximum-security prison in Jessup that handles inmates with mental illnesses.
Leasure granted that request, but she said she didn't believe Liu's actions were influenced by his mental troubles. She said she was disheartened by his lack of sorrow.
"There is absolutely no indication of remorse for your actions," Leasure said.
Seeking an apology
At yesterday's emotional hearing, Wu clutched a framed photograph of her mother and testified that she missed her. In a voice a few decibels above a whisper, she also said she wanted Liu to apologize.
He declined to do so.
Wu, who suffers from lung problems, a torn knee and damaged teeth from the shooting, said, "I will never be as good as before. ... I was so happy with my mommy."
In an interview after the hearing, Wu said she was pleased by the sentence.
Liu could be eligible for parole in about 30 years, minus time for good behavior, prosecutors said. Parole would require the signature of the governor.
"I feel safer," said Wu, who was being hugged by her sister, Emily, 29, of Hong Kong. "My mommy was a kind and humble woman. She took care of the whole family."
Wu said she had hoped Liu would apologize, adding "I would be happier if I knew he was sorry."
Wu is scheduled to graduate in August from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in computer science, and she said she wishes her mother were alive to see her accept her diploma.
Chan was granted a divorce from Liu that March afternoon. Liu left the courtroom, got into his rental car, drove up to the courthouse and confronted Chan and Wu.
He took out a shotgun and fired at Chan, chasing her around the parking lot, shooting, as Wu and others ducked for cover.
Liu ran out of ammunition and began to scuffle with Chan, who took away the shotgun and tried to fend him off with it. Liu then drew a handgun from his belt or pocket, pointed it at Chan and fired from close range.
Wu tried to help her mother and fought Liu with her textbook, but she soon fell to the ground. Liu continued to shoot at both women, who were lying side by side, wounded.
He emptied the gun's magazine of ammunition. Witnesses said he walked back toward his car and pointed the handgun at his head before he threw it into a snowbank.
Chan, shot four times, died at the scene.
Wu suffered a bullet wound below the neck that pierced her lung. Another bullet hit her forearm. She also suffered ligament damage to her right knee.
She suffers from asthma and must wear a brace on her knee to walk.
Chan met Liu in 1988. She spoke little English, was a seamstress in a Baltimore factory and enjoyed tending a garden at her Baltimore home. Liu and Chan had been living apart since 1994. Wu is her daughter from a previous marriage.