More than a decade after a young woman disappeared from a Dupont Circle street corner, D.C. police finally have answers for her family. Jackie Bensen reports.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced the closure of a cold case Friday morning but offered no details as to how it was closed.
In January 1999, 28-year-old Joyce Chiang, a government lawyer, disappeared as she walked home. Four months later, her body washed up on the banks of the Potomac River in Alexandria, badly decomposed.
When her body was found, her death was ruled a suicide. Chiang's family and friends said that was simply not possible.
Friday morning, Roger Chiang, the victim’s brother, and his boss for the past 12 years, John Walsh, host of “America's Most Wanted,” said Joyce Chiang didn't kill herself.
"She was dragged there by two men who were serial rapists,” Walsh said. “They either threw her into the river or she slipped into the river, in the freezing water, to get away from them."
“For the record, so the record is straight, this case has now been ruled officially a homicide,” Lanier said.
She didn't echo Walsh's statement, however. Nor did she answer any questions about the investigation, suspects or how the case was closed. Lanier did say that several inaccurate statements were made over the years.
"Whether they were inaccurate because of information that we had at the time, information that was missing at the time, doesn't matter," Lanier said.
Roger Chiang thanked the cold case squad for reopening his sister's death investigation and giving his family closure.
"This team right here restored Joyce's character, restored her honor, and in so doing, corrected the history," he said.
While questions about what police believe happened to Joyce Chiang linger, the case is now closed and the family of a woman who had a bright future ahead of her can find some degree of peace.
"I have a very heavy heart today. It's been 12 long years,” said Joyce Chiang’s college friend, Laurie Ann Phillips. “There's some relief in hearing the police chief make her statement and rule this a homicide."
"We still grieve for our friend,” said college friend Amy Well. “We still miss Joyce. That is what I think both of us are feeling.”
The two men suspected in the murder may never be charged, sources said. One is jailed in Guyana, which has no extradition to the United States. The other is serving a life sentence for an attack on a woman in Georgetown.