Neighbor of Hsieh family: 'I didn't see warning signs'
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) "Sad, grief, regret. Where have I failed?" begins the Facebook post of the neighbor who first discovered the 5 lifeless bodies of a Filipino-Taiwanese family on Saturday, February 7.
Grace Tan Un Huey-Chua recounted her chilling experience in a post on her Facebook wall on Sunday, February 8, a day after she, together with local officials and a maid, discovered the bodies of her friend, Roxanne Hsieh, and her husband and three children. (Editor's note, the Facebook post has been removed)
She begins by recollecting how she received a letter from the matron of the family, Roxanne – who she calls "San San" – on Saturday morning.
"I got the envelope, tucked away...I wanted to rest first...Something nudged me to open it so I opened and read contents: 'Dear Mareng Grace: ..As a last favor and request...at hour of our demise...cremate us all together and place us in a proper place....I thought it was a bad joke! Was this one of John's or Jeff's assignment?"
John and Jeff are the two younger sons of the Hsieh couple aged 12 and 13 years old, respectively, both students at Xavier School, Greenhills.
They were found in the master's bedroom with their parents, Taiwanese Luis (53 years old) and his Filipina wife Roxanne. Their daughter, 20-year-old Amanda who studied in Ateneo de Manila University, was also found dead in her room.
After reading the letter, Chua says she tried calling Roxanne but hung up after the long rings were left unanswered. Then her phone rang and on the other end of the line was Rhea, of the administration office of the Midland Park Manor Subdivision of which Chua and the Hsiehs were residents.
A sobbing Rhea said she had gotten a similar letter from the Hsiehs.
Chua then walked over to the administration office, even passing by the Hsieh's unit. Ivy, the family's maid was then doing the laundry and told Chua the family was still asleep. It was their habit to sleep in late on Saturdays, said Chua.
It was after reading Rhea's letter that the two women decided to call up authorities. Together with condominium security, San Juan police and a San Juan Greenhills barangay tanod, they opened the door to the Hsieh's master bedroom.
The unlocked door revealed a harrowing scene described by Chua:
"All 4 of them had plastic bags over their heads! John and Jeffrey on the cushion floor, two brothers side by side...very neatly, straight body, lifeless!
San San and Luis, their feet tied together in unison (strap of a luggage) hands together. In sort of embrace..plastic wrap on their heads! Luis in shorts so I could see the blue hematoma on his thighs."
'Once happy' family
Though news reports tell of the Hsieh family's financial problems, to Chua, they seemed a normal, "once happy" family.
Chua had been a close friend of the family. She and the Hsieh couple, Roxanne and Luis, travelled together.
"Memories came back: as we travel together – to Singapore, Brunei, meals out..all the laughter of Luis, San San – cracking jokes."
The three kids would sometimes ask her help with homework. She and her husband stood as godmother and godfather for the two boys for their confirmation.
She described the older Jeff as the "careful one" who would volunteer as an altar boy. The youngest child, John, was the "bubbly soul" who would greet all the maids on his way home.
Amanda, the eldest child, she described as a fair beauty who was "bright, vocal, free-spirited."
Chua's memories of the children are followed by words of regret that she "did not see the warning signs of cry [for] help" from her friend Roxanne. The night of the discovery, Chua could not sleep.
She ends her account with a plea to God.
"Lord please, please forgive whatever sins they might have...Lord please, please grant them eternal Rest...I loved you all..."
As of this posting, authorities have yet to release the cause of death for the 5 family members. But foam found in the mouth of at least one of the children indicates they may have been poisoned or sedated, according to police.
In accordance with their final wish, the remains of the Hsieh family will be cremated after an autopsy is complete. In a separate Facebook post that has since been removed, Chua said that the mother of Roxanne requested for traditional Buddhist funeral rites. – Rappler.com
Editor's note: We previously reported the age of Amanda Hsieh as 18 years old.