Home » » Memorial ceremony for slain matriarch offers little solace to Cambodian family

Memorial ceremony for slain matriarch offers little solace to Cambodian family

Written By vibykhmer on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | 9:28 PM


From left, Valerie Tubaces, Chad Sovanasy and Samantha Bunma hold a photo of their mother and family matriarch Leam Sovanasy, 76, who was was found brutally stabbed to death in her Long Beach home January 31, 2009. (Stephen Carr/Staff Photographer)
A photo of family matriarch Leam Sovanasy, 76, placed in a Buddhist shrine inside the family home in Long Beach. (Stephen Carr/Staff Photographer)

05/13/2009
By Kelly Puente, Staff Writer
Long Beach Press Telegram (California, USA)


LONG BEACH - Mother's Day had always been a crowded and festive occasion for the Sovanasy family.

Each year, dozens of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would flock to the small home on Peterson Avenue to pay their respects to 76-year-old Leam Sovanasy, a mother of 10 and Cambodian family matriarch.

But on Sunday, the family was instead mourning a tragic loss.

"Mother's Day was the worst day of our lives," said Sovanasy's daughter, Samantha Bunma.

Leam Sovanasy was found brutally stabbed to death in her home on the morning of Jan. 31, and the family say they are no closer to finding the killer.

Bunma said the family believes the murder could have been the result of a home-invasion robbery, but for now, no one but the killer knows what happened.

Family members now fear for their own lives.

"We're always looking behind our backs," Bunma said. "We're afraid to sleep. Each day we live in fear."

In keeping with Buddhist tradition, the family on Monday held a special prayer ceremony to mark the 100th day of Sovanasy's death. While the ceremony is meant as a final prayer to say goodbye, many are having a hard time letting go, Bunma said.

"Who could do this to a 76-year-old woman?" she asked. "She didn't have the energy to fight anyone."

Sovanasy was rarely alone in the home she had lived in since 1980, but on that Saturday morning at about 10:30 a.m., it seemed as if everyone was busy, her daughter said.

Sovanasy's husband, Lek Lot, and a son-in-law, had gone to fix a broken water heater at their Buddhist temple on Hill Street. Bunma, whose family also shares the home, was away at work while her two teenagers slept.

Son Chad Sovanasy, who lives in the back house, didn't hear anything unusual, the family said. But when he came out to wash his car and check on his mother at about 11 a.m., he discovered a horrific scene.

Sitting in the home where their mother was murdered, Bunma, 42, and youngest daughter Valerie Tubaces, 37, showed pictures of Sovanasy and talked about her life in Cambodia and struggles to keep the family together.

They said her death was a sad ending for a woman who survived the Cambodian Killing Fields and the loss of her first husband and three children.

As the bloody Khmer Rouge regime took power, Sovanasy fled Cambodia with her remaining seven children and spent three years at a refugee camp in Thailand before immigrating to Long Beach in 1980.

"She would always say, `things will be better when we go to live in the U.S.,"' Bunma recalled.

A devout Buddhist, Sovanasy maintained many of her Cambodian traditions, but also embraced American culture. The great-grandmother was a huge Lakers fan, her daughters said.

She married Lek Lot in 1980 after the two, both widowed and alone, connected at a Thai refugee camp. The daughters said Lot is now in the hospital suffering from kidney failure and depression.

"He's having a very hard time," Tubaces said. "He feels like he should have been there."

They said each family member has a way of remembering Sovanasy.

Bunma says she sleeps in her mother's bed to keep her spirit company. Tubaces wears a crystal heart necklace with her mother's picture.

"We're still going to be in mourning until we find an answer," Tubaces said. "The big question is why."

The investigation in ongoing, and police are asking for the public's help. Anyone with information is urged to call LBPD Homicide Detectives Russ Moss or Teri Hubert at 562-570-7244.

kelly.puente@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1305

0 comments:

Post a Comment