An Orange County man was sentenced Friday to 26-years-to-life in prison for stabbing to death his wife’s apparent ex-lover, an Irvine dentist, after trying to run the man down with a Mercedes-Benz SUV.
Hongli Sun, 43, was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder for killing Dr. Xuan Liu, as well as felony assault for injuring a woman who tried to intervene during the attack outside a medical building off Barranca Parkway in Irvine on July 18, 2015.
According to court testimony, Sun divorced his wife, Cynthia Chen, after she had an affair with Liu, her longtime employer. Chen spent several months in China, leaving the couple’s young child with Sun. After her return, the two reversed their divorce, as they tried to reconcile.
But Sun still suspected his wife was having an affair with Liu. On the day of the attack, he drove to Liu’s office to see if she was there.
Sun found a letter on the office door that appeared to be written in his wife’s handwriting, saying they had gone to lunch. Sun waited in his car until his wife, Liu and two officer workers returned.
Sun drove toward Liu, striking him with enough force to knock him away from the SUV before the vehicle collided with a wall. Sun exited the SUV and chased after Liu, stabbing him 17 times and injuring an office worker who was trying to stop him.
That Sun killed Liu wasn’t disputed at the trial. Instead, jurors were left to decide whether Sun planned to kill Liu when he drove to the office that day, or whether he acted in the heat of passion.
During the trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney described Sun as being driven by “anger, jealousy and ultimately the desire for revenge.” The prosecutor told jurors that Sun felt shamed by his wife cheating on him, as well as the knowledge that others at Liu’s office knew of the affair.
Sun’s attorney, John Barnett, told jurors that Sun believed Liu had “drugged,” “debased,” and “seduced” his wife, had photographed her having sex and had given her a sexually transmitted disease. The repeated betrayals had caused Sun to “snap” and kill Liu, the defense attorney said.