Tony Ng, one of three men convicted in the 1983 Wah Mee Massacre, has been granted parole.
On Friday, three members of the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board voted in favor of releasing Ng, whose full name is Wai-Chiu Ng. The fourth board member, Kecia Rongen, voted against his release.
Ng, now 56, was convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon for his role in the 1983 robbery and slaying of 13 people at the Wah Mee gambling club in the Chinatown International District. He was sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison for most of the robbery counts.
Wah Mee was an exclusive gambling and social club. On Feb. 18, 1983, Ng, Fai “Willie” Mak and Benjamin Ng (no relation to Tony Ng), entered the club, hogtied the 14 occupants — one of whom survived — robbed them and shot each in the head.
He has been before the parole board six times.
“It was a really tough decision. It took us quite a while; his hearing was in August. We pondered it and mulled it over,” said Lynne DeLano, who chairs the sentencing review board. “This was the second time I’ve sat in on a hearing for him. He talked to a large degree about the crime itself and his role in it.”
“He has consistently denied he was involved in the shooting. He seemed to express empathy for the victims,” DeLano said. “It seemed real, his remorse.”
According to Indeterminate Sentence Review Board staff there were people who contacted them to oppose Ng’s release. Board officials declined to release names other than to say they were “survivors.”
Doris Wong Estridge, whose father’s third cousin, Wing Wong, was killed in the massacre, has long lobbied for Ng to stay in prison for the rest of his life in prison.
When reached on Friday, Estridge said “wow” and was relieved when she learned that Ng faces deportation to China.
DeLano said she and Rongen traveled to Stafford Creek Corrections Center, in Aberdeen, to meet Ng in August.
“Tony has been a model inmate,” DeLano said.
Rongen could not be reached for comment.
In a 2009 interview with Northwest Asian Weekly, Ng said he was sorry for what he did.
“I always ask myself why. Why wasn’t I strong enough to say no? Why did I have to create such a bad name for my family? They are good people,” according to the story.
Mak and Benjamin Ng were convicted of multiple counts of murder and are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. All three men were sentenced under the state’s old sentencing guidelines.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg opposed Tony Ng’s release, saying that if Ng been convicted under current Washington law, he would have been sentenced to a specific period of time, which almost certainly would have been much longer than what he will ultimately serve. The firearm enhancements alone would carry a 70-year term, without reduction for “good time.”
“The Wah-Mee Massacre stands as the worst mass murder in Seattle history,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, “and it seems incomprehensible that one of the participants will soon be free.
“There is little doubt that Tony Ng caught some breaks in his favor that he did not deserve,” Satterberg concluded, “but the verdict of the jury set in motion the possibility of his eventual release.”
It’s unclear when Ng will be released from the Department of Corrections. When he is, he will be turned over to federal immigration authorities because he’s a Chinese citizen, authorities said.