Man sentenced to death for arson attack that left 8 of his family members dead

A man who was found guilty of setting fire to his family’s business and residence, resulting in the death of eight people, was sentenced to death by the Hsinchu District Court today, September 28.

[See previous story: 8 family members dead after arson attack in Hsinchu City]

The prosecutor told the court that Chen Yanxiang had financial problems due to the accumulation of debts, and had often quarreled with his parents over housework issues. At around 9:40 pm on June 15, 2022, Chen had a fierce argument with his mother over dishwashing duties. Chen left the house and drove to a gas station where he purchased 20 liters of gasoline.

Chen poured gasoline over four motorcycles parked inside the first floor of the building, which housed the family’s tire shop, then lit a fire which quickly spread. A total of eight people in the residence on the second floor were unable to escape. Chen’s mother, wife, three children, sister, sister-in-law, and niece, all perished in the blaze.

house ablaze after arson
Tire shop and residence ablaze June 15, 2022.

Chen was arrested at the scene of the crime and was himself suffering burn injuries. After being released from the hospital in July, he was taken into custody, and has been in detention to this day.

The Hsinchu District Prosecutor’s Office charged Chen with the crime of homicide and killing of direct blood relatives. The prosecution believed that Chen set fire to the house to vent dissatisfaction just because he had a dispute over household chores. In addition to endangering public safety and social order, the criminal methods employed were cruel, inhumane, devoid of conscience, treated human life as trivial, disregarded the safety of other people’s lives, bodies and property, and caused the serious consequences of the death of eight people.

From the beginning of the case to today’s trial, Chen has continued to deny his crime.

The court’s verdict, announced at 11:00 am, September 28, was that Chen should be sentenced to death, and deprived of civil rights for life.

The sentence is appealable.

“We are very grateful to the judge for sentencing him to death. It makes us feel that there is still hope for justice and at least provide the victims and their families with judicial justice and fairnes,” the mother of Chen’s sister-in-law, who perished in the fire, told reporters waiting outside the courthouse.

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