By The TimesLedger
Of all the murders that the TimesLedger has reported since it began covering the communities of southeast Queens, none is more tragic or profoundly disturbing than the killing of Ng Cheung Cheung. Mr. Cheung, the owner of the Hollis Chinese restaurant, was only 52 when two teenagers from middle-class homes crushed his skull with a baseball bat.
He leaves behind a wife and young children. Murder is often called senseless, but this time the term is particularly fitting. He was killed because two boys wanted a free meal. They ordered the food delivered to an abandoned house. They then beat this man and stole the food along with a handful of money.
Last week a Queens judge sentenced Conrad Mahone, 20, to the maximum 25 years to life in prison. He was only 17 when he picked up that bat. His accomplice, Rami Merchant, 18, is awaiting sentencing. He was only 15 when he took part in this crime. Both kids come from good homes. Neither of them had a criminal record.
As he begged for mercy, Mahone told the court that he is innocent. It is hard to comprehend what was going through his mind when he killed Mr. Cheung. But the questions must be asked. Even if they did not plan to kill their victim, how could kids from good homes come to the point where they thought it was acceptable to beat a man for a bagful of Chinese food? Was it racism or just an incomprehensible coldness of the heart that allowed them to enjoy their stolen meal while Mr. Cheung lay on the ground bleeding to death?
Mahone’s punishment is just, but there is no happy ending in this terrible tragedy. Three families have been devastated. Three lives have been wasted.