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Ax-wielding killer must pay victim's son $3.6 million, jury says

June 26, 2012 |  7:32 am

Michelle LuThe son of a woman murdered three years ago by her hatchet-wielding husband has won $3.6 million in damages from a Pasadena jury.

James Che Ming Lu was convicted last year of killing wife Michelle Lu on July 26, 2009, by striking her 19 times in the head with a hand ax at the couple’s Rosemead Boulevard home in unincorporated East Pasadena.

James Lu was 85 and Michelle Lu was 55 at the time of the incident.

After his first criminal trial ended in a hung jury, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to 42 years to life in prison.

Ji Zeng, Michelle Lu's son, escaped an attack by Lu after the murder and called police. Ji Zeng then filed a wrongful death suit against Lu, and a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded him $3.6 million Friday, including $600,000 for emotional distress, the Pasadena Sun reported.

The verdict came after a two-day trial and about two hours of jury deliberations, according to attorneys involved in the case.

“This was about justice,” said Bradley Wallace, Zeng’s attorney. The murder, he said, “was vicious — the type of killing that signifies rage.”

Lu has maintained that he was attacked by his wife of nearly nine years and acted in self-defense. He has appealed the conviction, and his attorney said Monday that the former furniture maker has few remaining assets to forfeit after paying for his legal defense.

“They could have a $30-million judgment and it’s the same result,” said his attorney, Charles Funaro.

Wallace said Lu still has money in the bank and retains deeds to the couple’s former home and an adjacent property.

Michelle Lu worked six days a week as a live-in nanny and was killed as she slept on her day off, according to Wallace. James Lu was unhappy his wife was frequently away from home and the couple was considering divorce, he said.

Lu claimed a verbal dispute escalated when his wife began beating him, according to Funaro. Lu claimed he thought his wife was going to stab him when he first swung his hatchet.


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-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News

Photo: Michelle Lu. Credit: Department of Motor Vehicles