PHETCHABURI — Police in Phetchaburi province said Monday 18 people have been charged with breaking into a student’s apartment and killing him last week instead of the person they were looking for.
The Feb. 25 murder, during which two other students roommates were injured, reportedly began as a jealous dispute over a woman. The main suspect, a senior police officer’s son, is accused of murdering his rival’s friend as a target of opportunity.
An officer in charge of the case said the suspect’s connection to the police force would not affect the investigation.
“He was in fact one of the first suspects we arrested,” Col. Bhakin Sivamethakul, chief of Cha Am police, said by telephone. “It won’t affect our investigation. We already conveyed this information to the family of the victim since the very first day.”
The suspect, Dechathon Moonmanee, is the son of Lt. Col. Sakdinan Moonmanee, an officer in the Kalasin police force. He was among the 18 people charged in connection with the deadly stabbing of college student 24-year-old Teerapong Thitathan.
According to Bhakin, Teerapong’s roommate and Dechathon had a long-running feud over the same woman. The officer said Dechathon and his friends decided to seek out his rival, whom Bhakin named only as “Aof,” at his apartment. But upon reaching the address and breaking into the room, the assailants couldn’t find their target, Bhakin said at a news conference. A security camera captured them arriving at the apartment, police said.
The group then vented their anger onto Teerapong and two other students sharing the apartment with Aof, according to Bhakin. Teerapong was stabbed in his head with a screwdriver, while the other two victims were slashed by knives.
Teerapong died at a hospital on Thursday. His two roommates survived their injuries.
Police later issued a total of 18 arrest warrants on Dechathon and his alleged accomplices. Every suspect has met with police to acknowledge the charges in the past several days, the police colonel said. Dechathon and others said they would only testify in court.
He added that all suspects were early 20s except for one minor.
Police did not give any briefing to the media about the incident until Sunday, after the victim’s family complained to the press that they feared a possible cover-up. Col. Bhakin disputed the allegation and said police and the family are coordinating.
“Today the victim’s mother is coming to meet with police, too. We will sit down together and we will answer any questions they have,” Bhakin said.
All of the suspects have been granted bail by police.
“It’s their legal right,” the police colonel said. “But if we find that they try to interfere with witnesses or obstruct justice, we will revoke their bail.”
A court date has yet to be set.