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Woman Accused Of Beating Former Landlord To Death With Hammer After He Caught Her Forging Checks In His Name

Xiu Fang Ke allegedly admitted she stole from friend and former landlord Leonard Garber and wanted to take her own life. Prosecutors say she took Garber's life instead.

By Jill Sederstrom
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

A Massachusetts woman has been accused of bludgeoning her former landlord to death with a hammer after he caught her forging more than $40,000 in checks in his name to cover her gambling debts, prosecutors say.

Xiu Fang Ke, 43, was arraigned Wednesday on murder charges for the death of her long-time friend and former landlord, Leonard Garber, 65, after his body was found in his home wrapped in a curtain and covered with “construction materials” and “other heavy items," according to a statement from the Middlesex District Attorney.

Garber’s friends and family reported him missing on Sept. 26 after they hadn’t heard from him in several days. Newton Police went to Garber’s home that same day to conduct a welfare check but were unable to find him, according to the Middlesex D.A. They returned two more times the next day.

On the second visit around 3 p.m. in the afternoon, they gained entry into his house and discovered the 65-year-old’s body wrapped in the curtain and hidden under the construction materials, prosecutors said.

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Police turned their focus to Ke after they learned that Garber had been “spending time with a former female tenant.” They were later able to identify that person as Ke, a woman who had lived in one of Garber’s properties years earlier and had remained friends with the victim, WBTS reports.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the pair had been engaged in a romantic or platonic relationship with one another, according to WBTS.

Prosecutors said authorities discovered that Ke had allegedly forged checks in Garber’s name and stolen more than $40,000 from her former landlord.

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“When the victim became aware of the theft, he confronted the defendant and she allegedly struck and killed him and then attempted to hide the body,” prosecutors said.

Police also uncovered surveillance footage from outside the home that appeared to show an Asian woman, later identified as Ke, entering the home in the days before the body was discovered.

Investigators believe Garber was likely killed sometime between Sept. 22 and Sept. 24.

Ke allegedly confessed to killing Garber after she was confronted by police.

"During the interview the defendant admitted that she had stolen checks from Leonard Garber and that she had killed him," Assistant District Attorney Julie Kunkel said Wednesday in court, according to WBTS. "She later stated that she had used a hammer and hid his body in the location where it was eventually found by police."

Prosecutors believe that she stole the money in an attempt to cover her gambling debts.

“The defendant sent out a message on a group chat admitting that she had stolen the money, that she owed gambling debts and that she wanted to end her own life,” Kunkel said in court, according to WKRC.

Although they have not released a formal cause of death, authorities believe it was likely the result of blunt force trauma.

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said at a press conference Wednesday that Garber had been a beloved member of the community.

“I speak for the people of Newton when I say our hearts and prayers are heavy,” she said, per WBTS. “Mr. Garber was a member of our community, he attended synagogue here, and he had friends and neighbors who cared about him.”

Neighbor Pat Hamilton told the local station Garber’s death had been a shock.

“Really sad this could happen to Lenny,” Hamilton said. “You never expect this sort of thing to happen to people you know.”

Ron Cohen, who had lived next door to the victim, said he and his wife were still grabbling with the news of the 65-year-old’s death.

“My wife had a hard time with it, woke up crying,” he said.

Ke is being held without bail and is scheduled to appear in court again for a probable cause hearing on Oct. 31, WFXT reports.

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