By Seth Daniel
Far too many times, it presently seems like red tape has common sense hog-tied.
Loeun Heng was never to walk the streets of Revere – or anywhere else in America – again, or so thought the mother of the young man Heng killed in 2000.
That reality all changed recently when Heng was released to the streets, unable to be deported after serving his time for the brutal 2000 murder of Charles Ashton Cline-McMurray.
“This latest defendant was released from prison, he was held for six months [by federal immigration authorities] while the feds tried to get paperwork from Cambodia and were unable to do so,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley. “The more serious the offense, the less they want to take someone back, so they weren’t exactly cooperative. It is monumentally frustrating for the family of the victim to have that come to fruition.”
Heng was in the country illegally at the time of the murder.
Still here illegally, his release came about due to a loophole in the law that is often capitalized upon by foreign countries that don’t want to take back violent criminals being deported from America.
ICE spokesman Chuck Jackson said that he could not comment specifically on the Heng case, but did say in general that they are confined by several different circumstances.
“In order to remove an illegal alien, ICE must secure travel documents which allow the alien to depart the U.S. and enter a foreign country,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Our ability to remove individuals is dependent upon the responsiveness of foreign countries, current or past country conditions, identity issues, and other issues specific to the alien.”
Now a convicted killer, Heng is here illegally and has avoided deportation for his crimes. Additionally, the potential exists for the same thing to happen in the future for two other men also convicted in the brutal killing.
Heng was one of four juvenile youths that jumped on McMurray – who had Cerebral Palsy – like a pack of wild animals and beat him with golf clubs, pieces of wood, stair balusters and whatever else. McMurray – who had no gang affiliations and was apparently walking by with friends – died from a stab wound to the chest, delivered by another youth who brandished a 12-inch cane knife during the attack.
All four youths, including Heng, were admitted members of the Asian Tiny Rascals street gang.
McMurray had been walking back from a Revere football game in October 2000. The four youths had come to Revere to fight with a rival gang, the Blood Red Dragons, on Shirley Avenue. When members of that gang would not come out of their Thornton Street home, the four youths converged on McMurray and two of his friends.
The other two ran, but McMurray – due to his disability – could not escape.
He paid with his life as the four youths beat him like savages.
Heng told the court during his sentencing in 2003, “I knew I was going to attack him when I was running over there. I saw the others running with me and I knew they were going to attack him too.”
The incident shocked the city at the time, and now it has taken on a new life and shocked family members and residents once again.
One youth, Viseth Sao, got second-degree murder for his part, which included stabbing McMurray with the cane knife.
However, Loeun Heng and two others made a plea deal for manslaughter.
McMurray’s mother – though she thought that they got off easy – had agreed to the deal because she thought that Heng and two other youths – all here illegally – would be deported following their time in prison.
Last March, Heng’s time was up.
According to the state Department of Corrections, he was paroled from MCI-Norfolk to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on May 13, 2010. He served nine years of his 8-10 year prison term.
From there, most would think he was on his way back to Cambodia.
A spokesman for ICE explained that due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2001 (the Zadvydas and Martinez decisions), ICE is only allowed to hold potential deportees for six months and even the most violent ex-cons are subject to that rule. After six months are up, detained individuals are, by law, required to be released to the streets.
“ICE makes every possible effort to remove all final-order aliens within a reasonable period defined by the Supreme Court’s 180 day period,” said Jackson of ICE. “After that period, if we are unable to make a convincing argument that the removal will occur within the reasonable foreseeable future, ICE must release the alien.”
That’s what happened to Loeun Heng last December, and it has gotten McMurray’s family a bit upset.
Sandra Hutchinson – McMurray’s mother – told Fox25 Boston that she never thought her son’s killers would see American soil again. The prosecutor assured her that deportation would take place after the prison term, not only for Heng, but also for the rest of them that were here illegally.
At this point, it appears only one of the attackers is in the country legally.
“It’s crazy,” Hutchinson told Fox25. “They’re just letting them back out there to do it to somebody else…I just want everyone in the neighborhood to know that they’re all going to be back. And I don’t think that’s right.”
Wark said that the DA’s office, nor any state judge, can deport a person, but that is often their preference and it is often stipulated at sentencing. However, the actual process is in the hands of the federal authorities.
“Deportation is something we would prefer to see happen for anyone in the U.S. illegally in these cases,” said Wark. “We can never promise that, but it’s our preference.”
Wark also said that in Heng’s case, it appears that ICE tried their best to fulfill the deportation request, but were hamstrung by federal law.
“It’s hard to criticize the feds in this case,” said Wark. “It appears they did everything they could, but the other government ran out the clock in terms of our laws here in the U.S.”
One of the four youths, Savoun Po, – who is in the country legally – was released from Old Colony Prison in March 2009 after serving eight years of his 8-10 year term. Po was the instigator in the altercation and was convicted of manslaughter – like Heng.
The other two killers – Viseth Sao and Savoeun Heng – are both still incarcerated. Sao – who delivered the fatal blow – will be up for possible parole in 2014.