Victim: David Kao, 49
Ages at time of murder: 16 & 17
Crime location: New York City
Crime date: June 6, 2009
Murder method: Strangulation
Convictions: First-degree manslaughter & first-degree robbery
Sentences: 20 & 22 years
Corey Azor, 16, and Chris Levy, 17, went searching for an Asian man to rob. They found such a man, marketing executive David Kao, who was asleep in his car. They invaded the vehicle, put David in a choke-hold, dragged him to the backseat, and beat and strangled him. They took his credit cards, money, and car and dumped his body. The assailants pleaded guilty. Azor and Levy got 20 and 22 years, respectively.
2 Teenagers Are Sentenced for Killing Man Asleep in His Car Uli Seit for The New York Times
Chris Levy, left, received a sentence of 22 years and Cory Azor received a sentence of 20 years for killing a Queens man.
March 2, 2012
Two teenagers convicted of killing a Queens man whom they overpowered as he slept in his Lexus were sentenced on Wednesday to prison terms of at least 20 years each.
The victim, David Kao, 49, was a marketing executive of The World Journal, which describes itself as the largest Chinese-language newspaper in North America. Mr. Kao was strangled inside his Lexus S.U.V., and his body was later dumped on a dead-end street after the teenagers spotted him asleep after they spent a Friday evening at the movies.
Before the defendants, Chris Levy, 19, and Cory Azor, 18, were sentenced, they stood as Mr. Kao’s niece, Christine Chu, recounted her uncle’s life in a victim-impact statement read in State Supreme Court in Queens.
“The thought of writing this impact statement made me sick to my stomach, because how can you describe the impact of losing my uncle?” Ms. Chu, 29, said as she fought back tears. She said Mr. Kao had raised her after her father died, and he “was always just a phone call away when I needed him.”
Ms. Chu, a city schoolteacher, described her uncle as a respected leader in the Chinese-American community. “It’s rare he walked down a street in Chinatown and Flushing without a million people stopping him to speak,” she said as the two handcuffed defendants stood silently, looking straight ahead, as their relatives sobbed.
Mr. Levy and Mr. Azor had been charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and robbery.
Mr. Azor insisted in court that the crime, in which the victim’s credit cards, cash, cellphone and car were stolen, was a botched robbery and was never intended to be a killing. He received 20 years in prison.
Mr. Levy, who admitted breaking into the Lexus and dragging Mr. Kao from behind the wheel and into the back seat while he and Mr. Azor choked him, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
A third defendant, Keron Wiltshire, 19, is expected to receive a five-year sentence later this month for driving the Lexus after Mr. Kao was killed. A fourth teenager, Jay-Quel Merkerson, still faces trial on murder and robbery charges.
The plea agreements included concurrent five-year prison terms for another crime in May 2009, in which Mr. Levy, Mr. Azor and Mr. Wiltshire robbed another man, Jin Ton Yuan, 42, in Flushing.
When offered a chance to speak after Ms. Chu’s statement, Mr. Levy turned and, appearing to smirk, briefly faced the Kao family. “I apologize to the family,” he said. “Thanks to my family for standing by my side.”
Mr. Azor spoke more extensively. Facing Ms. Chu and her mother, Hsiao Chu, the victim’s sister, he said, “After hearing the speech, there is nothing I can say to take up for the loss or take away the pain of the family.”
Mr. Levy’s lawyer, Robert Weinstein, in a bid for a more lenient sentence, told Justice Gregory L. Lasak that no weapon was discovered and that “Mr. Chu was severely intoxicated.”
“Don’t go any further,” Judge Lasak said, suggesting that Mr. Weinstein might like to withdraw Mr. Levy’s guilty plea and go to trial. Mr. Weinstein declined the offer.
Two teenagers have been charged with second-degree murder after they went searching for an Asian man to rob and ended up choking the life out of their eventual victim, whom they left on the side of the road. After committing a similar robbery a month ago, 16-year-old Corey Azor and 17-year-old Chris Levy were hunting for a new target in Flushing, where the two attend high school (in separate schools). They came upon 49-year-old David Kao, who was dozing off in the driver’s seat of an SUV while parked on the street. According to the News, Levy admitted to cops that “he and Azor climbed into the car, put Kao into a choke hold and dragged him into the backseat, where they beat him until he was unconscious.” They then took his credit cards and dumped him out a few blocks away.
A security video of the robbery led cops to the two suspects. Azor, the step-son of an NYPD officer, quickly confessed to the crime and implicated his cohort. Levy then confessed that he put Kao “in a headlock and pulled him over the seat into the backseat. I continued to hold him in the headlock and punch him in the face, and then he stopped moving.”
Kao lived in Elmhurst and worked in sales and wrote for World News, the largest Chinese daily paper in the US. He had a 21-year-old daughter attending college in Taiwan. At the time of the robbery, he was parked in his sister’s SUV outside of his ex-wife’s home. One co-worker described him as “a humble guy who brings happiness to everybody.” Another said to WABC 7, “If you want money, take money. If you want the car, take the car. Why do you have to kill him?”
According to the Post, the two teenagers “split the $115 they found in his wallet and went joyriding with a gaggle of teen friends in Kao’s car for two days.” When brought in by police, the pair also admitted to a robbery of another Asian man on May 27th, whom they also put a choke hold while in the elevator of the man’s Flushing building. A third teen was implicated in that robbery.
A neighbor of Levy told the News, “He’s a very, very good kid. He’s always been nice and polite. Corey is not a killer.” Levy and Azor are currently being held without bail.
Two teens who killed a Chinese newspaper executive who was sleeping in his car in 2009 were sentenced to 20 and 22 years in prison. Corey Azor, who was 16 at the time of the killing, and Chris Levy, who was 17 at the time, admitted they went into the car, put David Kao into a chokehold, and then dragged the 49-year-old into the backseat where they strangled him. They pleaded guilty for manslaughter and robbery; Azor got 20 years, while Levy got 22 years.
The pair, who had initially been charged with murder, said it was a botched carjacking and that Kao, who was marketing executive for The World Journal, a Chinese newspaper, was never meant to be killed. But that was little comfort to Kao’s relatives, including his niece who said he raised her after her father died. Christine Chu, 29, said in a Queens courtroom, “The thought of writing this impact statement made me sick to my stomach, because how can you describe the impact of losing my uncle?… [He] was always just a phone call away when I needed him.”
According to the NY Times, “When offered a chance to speak after Ms. Chu’s statement, Mr. Levy turned and, appearing to smirk, briefly faced the Kao family. ‘I apologize to the family,’ he said. ‘Thanks to my family for standing by my side.'” Azor said, “After hearing the speech, there is nothing I can say to take up for the loss or take away the pain of the family.”
Before the sentencing, Levy’s lawyer Robert Weinstein criticized his client’s proposed sentence, and started to tell the court, “He didn’t intentionally kill Mr. Kao, no weapons were involved. Kao was severely intoxicated…,” prompting Justice Gregory Lasak to ask, “Before you go any further, do you want to go to trial?… He faces 50 years. Do you want to go to trial?” Weinstein stopped. Lasak later told Azor and Levy, “There is no winners here in this courtroom, only losers. You two will probably lose the best years of your lives in prison.”
The teens arrested for strangling a Woodhaven man on June 6 in Flushing have been busy implicating each other since their arrest three days after the murder.
Chris Levy, 17, of Manhattan and Cory Azor, 16, of Erickson Street in East Elmhurst, are being held without bail for the murder of David Kao, 49. Kao, an account executive with the World Journal, a Chinese newspaper, was attacked while sleeping in his car on Colden Street early Saturday, June 6.
The car was double-parked outside the apartment building of Kao’s ex-wife. Police offered no motive for why Kao parked there, but said he had spent the evening dining with friends in Flushing.
According to the police report, after allegedly choking and beating Kao, the teens dumped his body nearby and fled in his 2000 Lexus SUV. They divided up the $115 found in the victim’s wallet. Azor allegedly was implicated as the ringleader in the attack.
The body was dumped in the vicinity of Barclay Avenue and 147th Street, where it was found later in the day without identification. Police were tipped off the following Tuesday after 911 was called regarding an argument over a car, believed stolen on 20th Avenue in Flushing.
The car turned out to be the missing SUV. Levy and Azor were found with Kao’s wallet and credit cards, according to reports. Also arrested for driving the vehicle was Keron Wiltshire, 17, of Corona, who was charged with possession of stolen property.
Wiltshire allegedly admitted to police that he was driving the Lexus. Another teen, also arrested, whose name was not released and is too young to be tried as an adult, is being prosecuted in Queen Family Court.
Levy and Azor face a jail sentence of 25 years to life if convicted. Arrested later were Jay-Quel Merkerson and Bryce Newton, both 16 and both Flushing residents. Merkerson allegedly helped dispose of Kao’s body and was charged with criminal possession of stolen property and released without bail. Newton was arraigned on misdemeanor charges involving unlawful use of a vehicle.
Stunned coworkers at the World Journal in Whitestone remembered Kao as a congenial colleague. Richard Li, manager of account services, said his sudden death came as a shock.
“The company will do its best to help his family in dealing with this tragedy and making funeral and other arrangements. People at the World Journal will miss him very much,” Li said.
Kao is survived by his daughter, a college student studying in Taiwan; his sister, Hsiao Kao and a niece.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 27 at 9:30 a.m. at the Chun Fook Funeral Home, 134-35 Northern Blvd. Flushing.
Levy and Azor have a history of attacking Asian men. In a second complaint, they and Wiltshire are charged with robbing Jin Tong Yuan, 42, as he entered an elevator at 140-50 Ash Ave. on May 27. The three allegedly put Yuan in a choke-hold, displayed a gun and took his cell phone and cash before fleeing.
Wiltshire told police he threw away the cell phone because he didn’t like it.
Calls to the three main defendants’ lawyers were not returned. Their next court date is June 25.