Man convicted of murdering California dentist over apparent affair with his wife

An Orange County man was convicted of first-degree murder on Thursday, Oct. 1, for stabbing to death his wife’s apparent ex-lover, an Irvine dentist, after trying to run him down with his Mercedes-Benz SUV.

Jurors found Hongli Sun, 43, guilty of slaying of Dr. Xuan Liu as well as felony assault for injuring a woman who tried to intervene during the July 18, 2015 attack outside a medical building off of Barranca Parkway in Irvine.

During the trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney told jurors that Sun planned to kill Liu when he drove to the dentist’s office that day. Sun’s attorney, John Barnett, countered that Sun suddenly snapped under the pressure of marital infidelity.

Sun and his wife, Cynthia Chen, divorced after she had an affair with Liu, her longtime employer, according to court proceedings. Chen left for China for several months, leaving Sun to care for their young child. When she returned, the couple attempted to reconcile and reversed their divorce.

Sun still suspected that his wife was having an affair with Liu, and on the day of the attack drove to Liu’s office to see if she was there. He arrived to find a letter on the office door, apparently written in his wife’s handwriting, telling visitors they had gone to lunch.

Sun was still waiting in his car when his wife, Liu, and two office workers returned.

According to the prosecutor, Sun drove toward Liu, hitting him with enough force to knock him away from the vehicle before it collided with a wall. Liu tried to run away, but Sun chased after him, stabbing Liu 17 times and also injuring an office worker who tried to stop him, Birney said.

The prosecutor told jurors that Sun felt shamed by his wife cheating on him, as well as the knowledge that other people at Liu’s office knew about the affair. Birney described the motive for the fatal attack as “Mr. Sun’s anger, jealousy and ultimately desire for revenge.”

Barnett denied that there was a plan to kill Liu.

The defense attorney told jurors that Sun learned that Liu had “drugged,” “debased” and “seduced” his wife, had photographed her having sex and had given her a sexually transmitted disease that he believed caused her to get cancer.

Sun’s attempts to forgive his wife had only resulted in more betrayal, the defense attorney said, ultimately leading to his having “snapped” and killing Liu. Sun told police that he “lost my mind” at the moment of the fatal attack.

Sun is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on Oct. 30. He faces 26 years to life in prison.

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