A Hong Kong fireworks importer who killed his wife and two sons before committing suicide in their well-to-do suburban home was saddled with business and personal problems, police said Tuesday.
The man left behind a detailed note spelling out what drove him to kill his family. Police spokesman Lt. Bill Ferguson said the letter alluded to “personal and business problems,” but he would not be more specific.
In the letter, the homeowner “accepted full responsibility for what occurred,” Ferguson said.
Detectives recovered a 9-mm Baretta handgun, believed to be the murder weapon, inside the two-story house in the Amherst development, a quiet, leafy neighborhood of $300,000-$400,000 houses on curving streets and cul de sacs in this suburb east of Seattle.
The family had recently sold the home, which was listed at $369,980, and planned to move into a larger home, neighbors said. The house was filled with boxes of packed goods, and a “SOLD” sign was posted outside.
The King County medical examiner’s office identified the victims as Sammy Lau, 55; his wife, Arlene, 49; and their sons, Sammy, 21, and Terence, 17. Arlene Lau and the sons were shot multiple times; Sammy Lau shot himself once in the head.
Police and neighbors said the elder Lau often traveled to Hong Kong on business, and the family would often go to Hong Kong in the summer.
K.J. Lee, a neighbor and golfing partner of the senior Lau, described him as a fireworks importer and member of a Hong Kong family that has been involved in fireworks manufacturing and distribution for three generations.
The elder Lau’s business, China Fireworks International, contracted with factories in mainland China and exported fireworks via Hong Kong to the United States, The Seattle Times reported.
Bruce Zoldan, president of B.J. Alan, a fireworks company in Youngstown, Ohio, said he and Lau had done business together for about 20 years and had become good friends.
Zoldan told The Times he had dinner with the elder Lau a few weeks ago. Lau gave no indication anything was wrong.
“He thought so highly of his two boys,” Zoldan said. “That’s all he ever talked about.”
Ferguson said Bellevue police received several calls Tuesday from Hong Kong inquiring about Lau’s death - “both from businessmen that are apparently associates of his and from the press.”
Neighbors said the older boy had just completed his junior year as a pre-engineering major at the University of Washington, and Terence was a junior at Newport High School.
The bodies were found Monday by a real-estate agent who went to the house with a family friend. The bodies were in an upper-floor room that served as a den or storage room. Family members had apparently been shot between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Monday.
There were no signs of a struggle, Ferguson said.
The real-estate agent, Millie Su, did not return calls Tuesday.