A man accused of shooting and killing his 23-year-old nephew outside a courthouse Thursday in Medford, Massachusetts, appeared in court Friday.
Chenghai Xue, 44, faced a Somerville District Court judge Friday for a murder charge in the death of his nephew, identified as Cong Wang.
The deadly shooting occurred just before 5 p.m. Thursday outside the Cambridge District Courthouse, located on Mystic Valley Parkway, where Xue and Wang had appeared for a hearing as Xue sought to extend a restraining order he had filed against his nephew.
Court documents revealed Friday that Wang had a sexual relationship with his uncle’s wife while Xue was temporarily living in China. When the wife broke it off, Wang wasn’t happy and allegedly sent text messages threatening to kill the couple and their children.
Court records showed the English translation of those messages as, "I will kill your family. If I don't kill your family, I will commit suicide."
Xue's wife ended her relationship with Wang in the summer of 2020, and told police the affair led to her divorce from Xue. The former couple continued living together, however, and took out a restraining order against Wang.
But according to one of Wang's close friends and former roommates, Wang was also afraid of his uncle.
"At one point, he was afraid that he would actually come into the house and kill him," Kevin Lin said. "I was afraid, too, but I felt like it was him being a bit paranoid."
Wang was 23 years old and studying computer science at Northeastern University.
Lin said he was surprised when he heard the family's dispute had not ended.
"It's been a long time since it all happened, so I felt like it wouldn't have happened after all this time," he said.
Thursday, a judge decided not to renew Xue's restraining order against Wang. Minutes later, chaos erupted in the parking lot outside.
Xue allegedly hit Wang with his Chevrolet Equinox and pinned him against a Toyota Rav4, then shot him in the head at close range, prosecutors said in court.
Court documents show Xue and his family were scared of their nephew and thought he needed help with mental health.
"It appears something very serious and tragic happened yesterday at the courthouse, and anything beyond that is pretty dangerous speculation," said Xue's defense attorney, Leonard Milligan.
Xue is being held without bail. His ex-wife was in court Friday but declined to make any comment about what happened.
Attorney William Barabino represented Xue in the case involving the restraining order and spoke to NBC10 Boston on scene shortly after the fatal shooting Thursday. He said Xue had taken out a restraining order against his nephew a couple of years ago, though he would not say why the two had a troubled relationship.
According to Barabino, the judge's decision Thursday not to renew the restraining order Xue had against his nephew must have affected him more than anyone realized.
“It’s emotional, it's powerful stuff, it just really affected him, apparently, more than I could see. I knew it affected him, clearly, but it affected him obviously a great deal,” Barabino said.
Xue's attorney initially thought he heard construction noise but then came outside and realized what happened.
“He apparently pinned him against the car and then shot him five times, fatally,” Barabino said of what allegedly happened in the parking lot.
Barabino says he kept his client at the scene until police arrived.
"I went in and just kind of put my knee on his back, just kind of rubbed his back a little bit, just sort of comforting him I guess," he said. "I just kind of looked at a dead body over here, and my client here, and I knew the police would want to have him, so I just kind of held him there with my knee."
Barabino says he was saddened by what transpired Thursday, noting how comfortable he felt around his client because of his friendly demeanor.
"It's just really sad...he was so gentle, so kind. He didn't have any history of violence. He never had a restraining order against him. He never had any allegations of physical abuse," Barabino shared with reporters. "He grew up in China originally, and he got his PhD there, it was in statistics...just a very bright guy. He was basically number one in all of scholastics, all his education. And then he went over to post doc at Harvard in statistics. And he has two children...And I know he loves his children very much."
"There's gonna be two children at home who do not have a dad if in fact he's the killer and he goes to jail for the rest of his life," he added. "He was very kind, and pleasant, and timely, and decent, and just like the type of guy you always would want working next to you, you know what I mean? So as a result, you're going, 'wow, wow, I didn’t expect that.'”
Barabino also noted how sad he felt for his client because his life is never going to be the same.
"It's really upsetting...he's a very kind, and gentle, pleasant guy, but obviously, it was building stuff up inside that none of us knew about, or at least he didn't have the ability to express it. So yeah, it's disappointing."
Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan would not say Thursday whether Xue has a history of violence but she did confirm that he has a license to carry.
Ryan also would not comment on the bad blood between the two family members or a motive in the fatal incident.
“We know the restraining order was not renewed,” the DA said. “We don’t know that that is the reason for whatever happened outside.”
In the aftermath of the shooting, aerial footage from the scene showed a large police response outside of the courthouse, with the primary in the back of the building and crime scene tape blocking off both sides.
Investigators also were focused on the area where the suspect and victim's vehicles were parked in close proximity to each other, with the suspect's vehicle at an angle to the victim's vehicle.
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Ryan said she was disturbed that the shooting happened at such a busy time outside the courthouse.
"First of all it's middle of the day. In addition to the court house, there are a number of other businesses, and restaurants and things in that area, so obviously there's a safety risk posed by this," the DA said. "In addition, people are always at the court house for incidents that are upsetting in some way. Either they are a victim, they are a witness, or they have found themselves in trouble. It's already a place that’s a very heightened, tension situation."
"To have something like this unfolding, particularly at the end of day as people were leaving the courthouse, employees were leaving, other things were finishing up, people making their way to the parking lot, it's extremely concerning," she added.
The courthouse does have security cameras and investigators are currently reviewing that video footage, Ryan said.
This is an active and ongoing investigation being conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Massachusetts State Police detectives and Medford police.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.