Accused cleaver attacker Chen to stand trial

2009 attack in Jade Palace Restaurant could result in life in prison for former busboy

Chun Ren Chen, a former busboy accused of attacking a coworker with a meat cleaver at a Palo Alto restaurant last year, will be tried for attempted murder and other felony charges, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Douglas Southard ruled.

Chen, 64, appeared during a pretrial hearing on Monday (Sept. 21) to decide if there was adequate evidence to proceed to trial.

On May 27, 2009, Chen allegedly attacked chef Zezhong Yang at the Jade Palace Restaurant on California Avenue. He allegedly struck Yang several times with a meat cleaver in the restaurant's kitchen. Yang sustained a five-inch gash to his face and a cut to his carotid artery. He had lacerations to his back, shoulder, thumb and neck and a fractured wrist, police reported.

Chen is charged with three felonies: attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated mayhem. He could face life in prison, Deputy District Attorney James Demertzis said.

"I suspect it could always resolve short of trial and he could receive less than that," he said.

Chen admitted to Palo Alto police that he struck Yang several times with the cleaver but claimed self-defense, police reported.

There was reported animosity between Chen and Yang since Chen started working at the restaurant in March 2009. The men began arguing on the evening of the attack, Chen told police.

Yang said Chen had threatened to kill him. He admitted he challenged Chen to "go ahead then." Chen struck him in the face with the cleaver and he tried to reach for a knife in self-defense, Yang said.

Chen said Yang grabbed a broomstick and he grabbed a meat cleaver during the argument. He struck Yang after being hit with the broomstick, he said. He claimed Yang turned around and reached into a knife drawer. Chen said he struck Yang in the back numerous times with the cleaver to preempt being stabbed.

Records show Chen had a previous arrest for a "similar" assault with a deadly weapon in Alameda County in 1997. The case was not prosecuted, however.

Chen had been tortured and "re-educated" in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, according to court papers. He later had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized.

A psychotherapist examined him in December 2009 and concluded Chen likely has post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder and anxiety disorders, according to court documents.

Chen escaped from China and went to Spain and Bolivia prior to coming to the United States, according to the documents. He immigrated without documentation to California in about 1996 and worked at both Jade Palace and Ten Fu, a Menlo Park restaurant.

He will be arraigned on the charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court in Palo Alto on Oct. 4.

Chen's public defender, Jeff Dunn, and Demertzis had tried to work out a plea deal, which has not materialized. Demertzis said a deal could still be worked out before trial but as a prosecutor he "has to be satisfied that justice is served."

Chen's attorney could not be reached for comment.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm

"Chen had a previous arrest for a "similar" assault with a deadly weapon in Alameda County in 1997". This guy need to do some long term jail time w/ therapy, before he kills someone.

Like this comment
Posted by Small Detail
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Chen was a waiter, not a bus boy. What a tragic life he has had.

Like this comment
Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm

bru is a registered user.

I have to admit to being curious as to just why someone would feel they had to attack someone else with a meat cleaver?

Tragic life of not I do not want someone that would do that anywhere near other people - period.

Like this comment
Posted by Dixon Tam
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2010 at 11:18 pm

,he was a very very bad temper person

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

If you do nothing else, do These Three Things
By Sherry Listgarten | 43 comments | 2,322 views

Lentil Brownies
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 843 views

Finding Balance
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 402 views

Reflections on Palo Alto's Centennial -- now it's the city's 125th birthday!
By Diana Diamond | 3 comments | 230 views


Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.