Accused murderer freed, posted $1 million bond
Chihan Eric Chyung, who is awaiting trial for the shooting death of his newlywed wife in June 2009, was released from prison Tuesday after posting a $1 million bond.
The 49-year-old Chyung is charged with murdering Paige Anne Bennett at their Norwich home just three weeks after they were married. Bennett, 46, was a nurse's aide at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.
His attorney, Brian J. Woolf, said Chyung's family and friends rallied to secure his release from prison, where he has been held for the past three years.
"People just believed in the presumption of innocence and got together and raised the bond," Woolf said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
Chyung's family paid a premium — a fee — of $70,000 to 3-D Bail Bonds of Hartford, according to Woolf, and put up an undisclosed amount of cash or real estate as collateral to secure the bond. Woolf would not say where in the state Chyung is living but said the bail bond company is monitoring him with a GPS system.
Chyung is awaiting trial in New London Superior Court and is due to appear again Sept. 13. His case could be called in sooner now that he is free on bond.
"I was told yesterday that the bond was being posted and he got out," prosecutor David J. Smith said. "I am looking into options as to his conditions of release."
In some cases, judges order as conditions of bond that the defendant have no contact with the victim's family. They also can require the person to turn over his passport, if he has one, and be monitored by a state agency or contractor. Since Chyung posted the bond from the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, where he was being held, there are no court-ordered conditions except that he appear in court when required.
The victim's family members or friends have attended each of the 27 court appearances that Chyung has made while his case was pending. They could not immediately be reached to comment Wednesday about Chyung's release. Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version that reported the wrong number of court appearances.
Woolf said it would be much easier to prepare the case for trial now that his client is not incarcerated. The defense admits that Chyung shot Bennett with his Glock 9 mm handgun but says it was accidental.
"There is no question in my mind that there was no intent whatsoever," Woolf said. "The Glock has no safety. The gun went off."
He said Chyung had no prior criminal record and is "a gentleman" who can barely talk about the incident without breaking down.
"This is a very, very tragic, unfortunate incident that occurred between a couple that was married for three weeks," Woolf said.
Norwich police initially charged Chyung with manslaughter, but Smith, the prosecutor, upgraded the charge to murder after reviewing the evidence.
According to court documents and testimony, Chyung called 911 to report that he had shot his wife. The police arrived at 257 Norwich Ave. to find Chyung standing near his pickup truck, which was parked behind the house. He surrendered without incident and directed police to his gun in the truck.
Inside the house, police found Bennett on the kitchen floor with a single gunshot wound to the head. A shell casing was on the floor. Chyung told police he was packing to leave the house when he accidentally shot his wife. He said they were arguing because he had bought a new fishing rod. He said he went to put the gun away and it went off.