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Vincent Chin's Estate Still Seeking Millions in Settlement Funds

by Emil Guillermo /
Amy Lee places flowers at the grave stone of her nephew, Vincent Chin, at a 20th anniversary memorial at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit, Sunday, June 23, 2002.PAUL SANCYA / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Thirty-three years after the death of Vincent Chin — whose violent murder in Michigan sparked a generation of Asian-American activism — the man convicted for his death, Ronald Ebens, has yet to pay any of the funds owed to Chin's estate.

Journalist and activist Helen Zia, executor of the Chin estate, says she has had to rely on pro bono legal help trying to chase down the more than $8 million currently owed.

“You’d think we’d be able to find some people to keep an eye on this,” Zia said. “Every time I speak on this topic, I always mention, if any of you have time to do something here’s what we need. Believe me there have not been many hands.”

Ebens, now 75, lives in Nevada. Three years ago in an interview, he expressed remorse for the brutal, 1982 baseball-bat-beating he carried out that killed 27-year-old Chin, calling it "the only wrong thing I ever did in my life," but claimed to be living paycheck to paycheck, unable and unwilling to pay the civil judgement award that continues to grow with interest.

"It was ridiculous then, it's ridiculous now," Ebens said at the time. He did not respond to new requests for comment this week.

Ebens pled guilty to the beating and was sentenced to three years' probation, a $3,000 fine, and $780 in court costs.

Zia worries too much time may have elapsed and that the funds may never be recovered.

“People forget. It’s been a long time ago. A whole generation has passed. It’s ancient history to them," she said. “The main thing is we are a thorn in his side, and that he is not free.”

 Amy Lee places flowers at the grave stone of her nephew, Vincent Chin, at a 20th anniversary memorial at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit, Sunday, June 23, 2002. PAUL SANCYA / ASSOCIATED PRESS
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