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The Murder of Stuart Tay

Even the smartest, most unassuming students, are capable of horrific things.
Stuart Tay
Stuart Tay

Even the smartest, most unassuming students, are capable of horrific things.

It’s New Year’s Eve, only hours away from ringing in 1993! A 17-year-old student from Foothill High School decides to go out and run a “quick errand.” Stuart Tay was an incredibly bright student, a Boy Scout,  a magician with computers, and a person who had big dreams of going to schools like UCLA, Princeton, and Berkley. A kid with lots of potential and a bright future ahead. But that would all change in one night. A computer heist, alleged gang activity, a brutal murder, a body buried in a backyard in Buena Park, and 5 teens committing an act they can never take back.

Crime Investigation

At around 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Tay told his family that he was going to run an errand. Later on, at around 2:40 a.m. his mother was getting worried that he had not come home yet and called the police to report him missing, explaining how he never does anything without telling her in advance. At 9:50 p.m. on New Year’s Day, the Compton police find Tay’s car cleared and abandoned in an alley. 

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The next day, on Jan. 2, the police detectives interview some of Tay’s friends to get information about where Tay could’ve gone. They say that Tay was going to buy a gun from Chan and meet up with him at a restaurant at around 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. 

On Jan. 4, right after midnight, Tay’s family hired a private investigator named Lee Roberts, and he gave Miller (detective) information which all led to a Sunny Hills High School junior named Kirn Kim. Kim reports to the investigators that he and four other boys from his school met Tay at a house in Buena Park and he kept a lookout while the others dealt with Tay. Later that day detectives drove to the house in Buena Park to learn that Acosta (the suspect) had talked about burying a dog, where they found newly dug dirt.   

At 12:40 p.m. on the same day, Miller and four other detectives arrested Acosta, Chan, and Mun Bong Kang from Sunny Hills High School. Soon after they also arrest Charles Choe at his home in Fullerton. As the suspects were forced to talk to the investigators, Chan refused to say anything. In contrast, the others admitted to luring Tay to a home in Buena Park and beating him with baseball bats, forcing him to drink rubbing alcohol, and taping his mouth shut.

Finally, at 9 p.m., Jan. 4, while the police are armed with a search warrant and sets of floodlights, they disentomb Tay’s body from a shallow tree beneath a grave.

A Computer Heist Gone Wrong

Why would someone commit such a horrible murder? What would drive a person to take another life? Well, in this case, it was all about computers. The boys did not just decide to become murderers one morning, it started long before that. These boys (Tay Included), had plenty of knowledge of computers, especially how valuable they were. And something straight out of a movie script was born, Stuart and a few other “Friends”  were going pull off a Computer Heist! However, this would never come to fruition. 

Some became suspicious. When planning such a heist, you need to know who to trust. Apparently, Stuart was not one to trust. Some began to suspect that Stuart may tell someone, say his parents or the police, and ruin the plan. And they were not going to let the computer plan flop, so they devised a new plan. 

On New Year’s Eve, 1992. Stuart Tay left his home around 4 pm, telling his sister he was “Running an errand” but would not return home. Stuart was lured into the garage of Abraham Acosta, and beaten over the head with a sledgehammer, knocking him out. This however was not enough to end his life. After 20 minutes, Stuart was forced to consume rubbing alcohol. He was then wrapped in a sheet, and buried in Abraham’s backyard.

Stuart Tay died on December 31st, 1992. His family would never see him graduate.

The Killers

Robert Chan, Kirn Young Kim, Charles Choe, Abraham Acosta, and Mun Bong Kang were 5 young men ranging in age from 16-18, all students at Sunny Hills High School, who were convinced of the murder of 17-year-old Tay. However, it is widely believed that Abraham Acosta and Robert Chan were the two main minds behind the murder. 

Robert Chan was a senior at Sunny Hills High School, and an honors student when he took part in the murder of Stuart Tay. According to the L.A. Times, “Chan boasted that he was involved in a violent Asian gang.” He was considered the mastermind behind the murder. Abraham claims that after the beating, Robert took $120 out of Stuart’s wallet. Robert was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Robert Chan (From the OC Register) (Clay Miller)

Abraham Acosta was a Sophomore when he took part in the murder of Stuart Tay. His home was the location of the murder, and subsequently, where the body was buried. Apparently, he was offered $200 to help “Get Rid” of Tay. However, according to the L.A. Times, his Public Defender holds the belief that Abraham had an intellectual disability, and should not be tried as an adult. “It’s almost as if you had a 5-year-old entering the (court) system,” – Denise Gragg. 

Kirn Young Kim was a 16-year-old when he took part in the murder of Stuart Tay. Before the murder, he did not have any marks on his criminal record and was not involved in gang activity or illicit substances. By all accounts, Kirn was a model kid, at least, before the computer heist turned to murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He was a great prisoner, and after serving 20 years, ended up being paroled in 2012. He now works in Criminal Justice and worked to change California law. Specifically, Senate Bill 1391, which stops 14 & 15 years olds being prosecuted as adults in a court of law.

Charles Choe was also a student at Sunny Hills High School when he took part in the murder. As part of a deal in court, he pleaded guilty and served as a main witness against Robert Chan. Because of this he only served 8 years in prison. 

Mun Bong Kang was a 17-year-old at the time of the murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.


Lasting Impact

Those who knew Tay know that he wasn’t a bad guy. As the news went out about the unfortunate events of his passing, his friends talked about what Stuart Tay was like. Many said he was always super helpful to people when they needed it and very obedient. They say that he was very generous and always wanted to please other people. His teachers recalled how bright of a student he was and how he would always be the leader of the class. He was an extraordinary person who had a very bright future ahead of him.

This life event will forever scar Tay’s parents. Ms. Tay said, “We constantly have a shadow hanging over our lives.” “When you suffer such a horrific crime, there is never a closure.” 

It has now been 30 years since the murder of Stuart Tay. And this story has been lost to the sands of time. A crime that happened so close to our home and yet many of us don’t seem to know. But more importantly, what is the lesson from all this? What should we take away? Well, I believe this rings with the age-old saying “Never judge a book by its cover.” Many of these boys, Tay included, were seen as bright honors students, with promising futures ahead of them. And yet, Stuart and his “friend” were planning a heist of a computer part salesman in Anaheim, and even worse, these “friends” decided that the best course of action was to take the life of the person who threatened their success. A promise, or even a chance of success is enough for some people to do horrendous things. Is it enough for you? Your friend? I think how you can move forward after reading about this crime, is to make smart choices. Work hard and success will come to you. And don’t allow the idea of success to blind you, or you may end up like one of the people here. 

If we do not remember history, we are doomed to repeat it.

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About the Contributors
Jay Carroll
Jay Carroll is a Sophomore and this is her second year in Journalism. She hopes to continue to bring news and stories that matter to the students of Buena Park High School. When Jay is not working on Journalism, she is a dedicated member of the Coyote Corps Color Guard. She also enjoys shows like Arcane, Movies like Corpse Bride, and a wide variety of music.
Brooke Weber

Brooke Weber is a Sophomore and this is her first year in Journalism. She hopes to improve her proficiency in writing and interviewing. When Brooke is not in Journalism, she enjoys spending time reading, listening to music, and playing with her dogs.

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