Kanchanaburi man faces death sentence for East Pattaya triple murder

Friday, 24 January 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 4 By  Boonlua Chatree

Authorities plan to seek the death penalty for a Kanchanaburi man who confessed to the Children’s Day killing of two American-Thai boys and their teenage nanny in East Pattaya.

Prajak Masawang, 19, re-enacted the brutal killings of 7-year-old Joseph and 2-year-old Michael Lieberman, and 18-year-old Wipawee Kamsai Jan. 13 at their Paradise Hill 2 village on Soi Khao Noi. The photographed confession, first attempted the day before, quickly devolved into chaos, with hundreds of residents swarming the Lieberman property and relatives, forced to watch inside the house, reportedly lunging at Prajak with a knife despite a 20-officer-strong police guard.

Prajak Masawang (seated) could face the death penalty for the gruesome murder of 2 young boys and their cousin / baby sitter.Prajak Masawang (seated) could face the death penalty for the gruesome murder of 2 young boys and their cousin / baby sitter.

Anguish and anger flowed freely in both the neighborhood and at Bunsamphan Temple, where hundreds of people assembled earlier that day to mourn the three young victims and curse both the alleged murderer and Paradise Hill’s lax security, which allowed an intoxicated Prajak to enter the gated neighborhood around 3 a.m. despite refusing to surrender his identification card. Police said the suspect continued to loiter outside the house even after slaying the victims.

The tragic events began early Jan. 11, when Prajak sat drinking and impatiently waiting for his South Pattaya go-go bar girlfriend to return from work outside the home of Jason Lieberman and his wife Wilawan, who had driven 17-year-old Chanasda Thonarak to and from work.

Demanding Wilawan’s phone number and their estimated return time, Prajak allegedly forced his way past Wipawee - Wilawan’s niece from Kalasin - into the Lieberman home shortly before 4 a.m. When she only shouted at him to leave, Prajak confessed to strangling the girl, then unsuccessfully attempting to rape her. Unable to perform, Prajak told police he then stabbed the girl three times in the stomach before slitting her throat.

During the fracas, 7-year-old Joseph intervened, coming to his cousin’s rescue and attempting to pull Prajak off her body. The suspect responded by slitting the boy’s throat.

The commotion also awoke 2-year-old Michael. Trying to stop neighbors from being alerted, Prajak told police he felt he had no choice but to kill the toddler by strangling him with a towel.

Rather than flee the bloody scene, however, Prajak went back outside and sat on his friend’s Honda motorbike until his girlfriend returned with Wilawan, who didn’t discover the murders until after the couple had sped away. Village security cameras caught them easily escaping without intervention by guards.

Banglamung and Chonburi police quickly mobilized, as Wilawan called husband Jason to return quickly from the Philippines, where he was working on a job as a information-technology security consultant.

Investigators recovered Prajak’s telephone SIM card from a PTT gas station in Sriracha and traced ownership of his motorbike to Nattawut Saetia, 30, a friend from his hometown in Thamuang, Kanchanaburi. Prajak already was facing criminal charges there for robbing and cutting four fingers off a local man in January.

After his arrival in Kanchanaburi, Prajak telephoned and confessed to his father, who persuaded him to surrender to police there. His father said he feared for his son’s life if he didn’t.

Judging by the reaction of the East Pattaya community, he was right. Police had to abort plans for their on-camera reenactment of the heinous crime Jan. 12 when nearly 1,000 people surrounded the Lieberman property. Despite Nongprue, Banglamung and Chonburi stations supplying about 200 officers to maintain security, the crowd broke through Lieberman’s fence, damaged their home and trashed the property as they fought to kill the suspect. Police sped Prajak away before he could be harmed.

More than 500 people reportedly returned to the scene following the funeral amid reports police would try the reenactment again. They did, but not until 10:30 p.m. when only about 200 people returned. Officers locked the house’s doors and guarded windows as the crowd pressed in, eventually getting their video-recorded confession and smuggling the suspect away by disguising him in a police volunteer uniform.

He was charged with three homicides, among other offenses, and reportedly faces death for the killing of the three youths.

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