DEDHAM — When Yan Long Chow allegedly ran over his ex-wife in the driveway of her Quincy home last September, he told police it was an accident, that he had gotten dizzy behind the wheel.
But on Thursday, prosecutors said Chow killed Zhen Li in brutal fashion, running her over four times after they fought over his gambling.
At his arraignment in Norfolk Superior Court, Chow, 55, pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, and was ordered held without bail. His lawyer, Scott Martin, said Chow had nothing to gain from Li’s death, which he described as a “tragic accident.”
“He loves his family and his ex-wife,” Martin said. Martin said the pair married in 1985, divorced in 1993, remarried in 1998 and divorced again in 2005 but had continued living together.
Prosecutor Adam Lally said that Chow called 911 around 2:25 p.m. on Sept. 2, saying he had driven into his home with his van, ejecting Li in the process. But when police arrived, they discovered no damage to the home, the van, or a fence that ran along the driveway, Lally said. Chow, described as “distraught” in news reports at the time, complained of chest pain and was taken to the hospital.
When police interviewed him there, Chow said he and Li, 52, had been headed to East Boston to pick up signs for their business, according to court documents. He told police that he pulled forward in the driveway to pick up Li, who had just left the house, when he felt dizzy and blacked out.
Records from the hospital showed no indication of dizziness or shortness of breath, Lally said.
Chow told police he realized he had hit Li and backed up, only to hit her again. He pulled forward, then backed up to the bottom of the driveway, where he saw Li’s body in front of the van.
Investigators learned that the couple, who had two children, fought often, usually over Chow’s gambling, according to court documents. Because of their problems, Li had made plans to leave the United States and return to China without Chow, court records show. Li was also angry at Chow most recently because he had vanished for two days to gamble in Boston.
Investigators who reconstructed the incident in the driveway determined that Chow drove forward over Li, who became lodged under the vehicle, according to court documents. Chow then shifted into reverse, and backed up, dragging Li and straightening out the wheel to avoid hitting the fence or the house. When Li fell away from the van at the bottom of the driveway, he drove over her body one more time in each direction, according to court documents.
As Lally described Li’s gruesome injuries, Judge Beverly Cannone stopped him and said she had heard enough.
Chow displayed no emotion during the hearing. His son sat in the courtroom but declined to speak with reporters.
Martin told Cannone that the case was “not a slam dunk,” and noted that Chow had turned himself in promptly when he learned he was indicted for murder. Martin pointed to news articles that described Chow’s emotional devastation after Li’s death, and noted he had not tried to leave the scene.
Despite the divorces, Martin said, they lived together as a couple, and had no history of assaults or restraining orders.Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.