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Chinatown Murder Suspect Still Not Charged in Killing

By Serena Solomon | August 8, 2012 5:28pm

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A man prosecutors say is responsible for a recent double homicide in Chinatown was offered on unrelated charges by a judge Wednesday, after his lawyer argued that prosecutors were buying time before charging him with the murder.

Song Fei Li was granted $300,000 bail, which dropped from the judge's initial proposal Wednesday of half a million dollars, after his attorney argued that the DA's office was inappropriately accusing him of the in the June murders of Xiao Ling Li, 70, and Yong Hua Chen, 36.

Before Wednesday, Li had been held without bail since his arrest last month.

"If the people have enough evidence for homicide they should charge him," attorney Rebecca Kavanagh told the judge.

Kavanagh argued that the $300,000 bail was "still very substantial," for the minor charges against Li: coercion and tampering with a witness.

Li allegedly slashed the tires of a fellow driver in Brooklyn in February and threatening to kill him if he testified against Li, according to court documents.

Prosecutors also said he threatened the same person while brandishing a handgun in Manhattan in April.

Li also has a wife and two children, and had no prior criminal record, which would have both been grounds for lower bail, she said.

Li is a suspect in the June murders of Xiao Ling Li, 70, and Yong Hua Chen, 36, prosecutors said previously. Both women were shot in the head before their bodies were discovered in a ground-level apartment on Henry Street that was set ablaze in an apparent coverup June 28, officials said.

Authorities arrested Li, who is a driver for a car service in Chinatown, after pulling him off a Hong Kong-bound plane at JFK in July moments before takeoff. His planned flight  came days after detectives questioned him on the murders.

Investigators are working to come up with enough evidence to prove his connection to the crime, sources said.

Police sources believe Li was hired to recover $200,000 in stolen cash from Chen, who purportedly took it from an underground Chinatown loan system called the "Hui." She was allegedly planning on fleeing the country the day she was killed.

Sources said investigators suspect Li may have retrieved the money, and then killed Chen, and Xiao Ling Li, her babysitter, and set fire to the building to cover up the murder.

On the day Li was arrested, prosecutors also said he had purchased three plane tickets at different times and at different airports. They accused him of using two of the tickets to mislead detectives.

Despite bail being set, Kavanagh doubted her client could make the sum and even if he could he was yet to be offered bail for similar charges in Brooklyn, she said.

Li is due to appear in court again on Oct. 31.