A 24-year-old West Vancouver man has been sentenced to 14 years in jail for his part in luring a young Chinese man to a house in North Vancouver where he was held for ransom and eventually killed in circumstances the judge described as “horrendous and very sad.”
Tian Yi “Eddie” Zhang was handed the sentence by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes Tuesday afternoon after pleading guilty to manslaughter and unlawful confinement in the death of Peng Sun, a 22-year-old Chinese citizen, and extortion of Sun’s parents Cang Sun and Hau Li.
Court heard horrific details Tuesday as Crown prosecutor Jeremy Hermanson read an agreed statement of facts about the case.
Hermanson described how on Zhang was recruited to work for a man named “Jay,” who was looking to make money by kidnapping for ransom, by his associate Casey Hiscoe. Zhang’s role was to provide potential targets through his connections to wealthy Chinese families, said Hermanson. Zhang believed Sun’s family would be able to pay a significant ransom.
On Sept. 27, 2015, Zhang used his friendship with Sun to lure the young man to a vacant house in North Vancouver owned by Zhang’s uncle, under the pretext of inviting him to a party. When Sun arrived, Zhang took Sun down into a basement room that had been covered in plastic. There, Hiscoe, “Jay” and others were waiting with tasers, zap straps and a pair of handcuffs. They proceeded to confine Sun while Zhang made ransom calls to Sun’s parents in China, demanding money.
In one call, Zhang put Sun on the phone to his parents while demanding the equivalent of $2.5 million Canadian be transferred into a Chinese bank account, said Hermanson. Sun told his father during the phone call, “Dad, someone has a gun to my head. They want money.”
In another call, Zhang told Sun’s father if the family didn’t pay, they would cut off Sun’s fingers, one at a time.
Between Sept. 27 and 29, the family transferred $340,000 through a Chinese bank account, said Hermanson.
While the ransom calls were being made, Sun died of strangulation caused by a zap strap being fastened around his neck, said Hermanson. When he died, his hands and feet were bound and his head and face nearly entirely covered in duct tape. Hermanson added Zhang was not present when Sun died nor did he place the strap around his neck.
Although Zhang was not the person who physically caused Sun’s death, he used his personal relationship with Sun to deliver the young man to his killers, said Hermanson, adding Zhang has a high moral responsibility for Sun’s death.
After Sun’s death, Zhang continued to make ransom calls to Sun’s parents, said Hermanson.
In one of those calls, Sun’s father asked to speak with his son at which time Zhang played a recording of Sun’s voice. The father then asked Zhang to have Sun say his sister’s birth date. Zhang refused. Sun’s father did not transfer any money after that, said Hermanson, because he believed his son was already dead.
Police were able to move in after Sun’s wife recognized Zhang’s voice from a recording of one of the ransom calls and they put Zhang under surveillance and obtained emergency wiretap authorization on his phone.
Zhang and others later removed Sun’s body from the house “in an attempt to insulate themselves from the crime,” said Hermanson. They loaded Sun’s body into his own white Bentley and drove it to another address on Wellington Drivein North Vancouver. It was while four men, including Zhang, Hiscoe, and two others were in the process of moving Sun’s body, that police swooped in and arrested them.
Police later seized almost $50,000 in cash from Zhang’s West Vancouver home, which included some of the ransom money paid.
Victim impact statements from Sun’s parents, translated from Mandarin, were read in court. Sun’s father described his regret at not being able to protect his son and said Sun’s death had ruined his family, and driven them into deep sorrow.
Sun’s mother wrote, “My heart is filled with pain and sorrow every day. I lost my son forever.” Without her son, “My life has lost all significance,” she wrote.
Sun’s young wife also wrote a victim impact statement. She had since returned to China, said Hermanson.
Before he was sentenced, Zhang read a statement to the court through a translator, describing himself as full of shame and regret for his actions.
“I am sickened every time I reflect on my part in causing (Sun’s) death,” he said. “. . .I apologize for the loss of your son. … I can never right that wrong.”
Zhang, who his lawyer David Milburn said has converted to Christianity in jail, added he prays for God’s forgiveness.
A permanent resident of Canada, Zhang stands to be deported to China upon completion of his sentence.
Hiscoe, a co-accused in the case, has pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court to conspiracy to commit unlawful confinement and accessory after the fact to murder. He has not yet been sentenced.
Sun’s family were present in the court Tuesday, but declined to speak with reporters.