THE THAI CONNECTION

PROSECUTORS WILL SAY NARCOTICS PLAYED NO ROLE IN THE TEMPLE MURDERS. THE EVIDENCE SUGGESTS OTHERWISE.

"He may have been dealing a little dope," says a task-force investigator. "That's something we've heard."
Johnathan Doody, accused killer of the temple residents, knew Boy. Doody, whose parents are both Thai and who came to the United States when he was 6, spoke Thai and attended the temple sporadically. His younger brother, David, spent three weeks studying at the temple in the summer of 1991. During that time, Johnathan Doody occasionally visited the temple, usually to pick up or drop off his brother.

Joseph Brandon Burner, a friend of Johnathan's, says he accompanied Doody to the temple "two or three times." Burner says he last went a few days before the murders.

That day, Burner says, he, Johnathan, David and Alex Garcia went to give Boy a Terminator 2 souvenir cup, a promotional item purchased at Subway sandwich shop. Burner says Johnathan Doody had told him there was a "chest full of money" in the temple.

Investigators say they have never had a firm explanation for Boy's presence at the temple. He was the only resident of the Wat without religious duties, and the one with the most contact with people from the outside. He was the only victim not wearing the traditional saffron-and-orange robes of the clergy when he was killed.

Boy wasn't the only recent arrival from Thailand. Four of the murdered Buddhists arrived at Wat Promkunaram in July 1991. Though the turnover among Thai Buddhist monks is fairly high--the Theravada tradition requires all males to spend a portion of their lives as a monk--the fact that six of the nine victims had been in Thailand less than a month before the murders did not elude investigators.

They also noted that at least three of the Buddhists were from Chiang Mai, a city in the heart of the remote "Golden Triangle" near the border of Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Many of the region's people are literally raised in the drug culture, with children working alongside their parents in the poppy fields. In the early 1980s, the father of one of the murdered monks was arrested in Thailand for smuggling heroin.

Also among the victims were Foi Sripanprasert, a 75-year-old nun, and her grandson, 16-year-old Matthew Miller. Sripanprasert had spent most of her life in Thailand, working a family rice paddy and raising four children. She had come to Arizona four years before the murders to live with her daughter, Fong, and her serviceman husband, Steve Miller.

Matthew Miller was the only American citizen living at the temple. He was spending the summer as an acolyte. However, some of his classmates from Trevor Browne High School remember him as a surly, tattooed tough. His half-brother, 20-year-old Jerry Hastings, says Miller "wanted to learn Thai, to learn about the culture."

Task-force sources suspected Miller and Boy may have bought and sold small amounts of marijuana while they were at the temple. Perhaps coincidentally, the name and telephone number of Jerry Hastings were also scribbled on the sheet of paper with the Placentia number. Investigators believe the English notes written on the pad were made by Miller.

Miller also knew the murder suspects. Alex Garcia told police that Doody decided all the temple residents must die after Miller recognized the gunmen.

Seven days after the murders, the victims' bodies were released to the Thai community. On August 17, the Saturday following the discovery of the bodies, a weeklong wake commenced, with the victims lying in state at the temple. Then all the bodies--with the exception of Miller and Sripanprasert--were flown to Thailand.

Investigators noted that no one came to Bangkok to claim Boy's body. And no one--not even his rich aunt--was there when it was cremated.

@rule:
@body:On November 17, 1978, a Thai citizen named Lamthong Sudthisa-ard failed to show up for the fourth day of his trial in federal court in Los Angeles.

The former president of the Thai Association of Southern California was being tried on charges of importing heroin and conspiracy to import heroin.

He had told an undercover DEA agent posing as a mobster that he could smuggle heroin from Thailand because of his connections with Thai customs officials. DEA agents say he then had made two trips to Thailand in the summer of 1977, and on August 17 of that year, they had seized 1.5 kilograms of heroin he shipped to the U.S.

After he vanished, Sudthisa-ard was convicted in absentia and his $75,000 bond was forfeited. The Los Angeles office of the DEA assumed he had slipped quietly back into Thailand.

A month to the day after the murders at Wat Promkunaram, Smith Thongkam, a 53-year-old Valley restaurateur who became a spokesman for the local Thai community in the wake of the temple murders, hosted a supper for the Thai ambassador to the United States. The ambassador was in town to express his concern and monitor the progress of the murder investigation. Also present at the dinner at the Spicy Thai restaurant were Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, Sheriff Tom Agnos and Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.

As the luminaries dined, good news circulated through the restaurant. Earlier that day, the Tucson Police Department had received a call from a man who claimed to have information about the temple murders. Investigators picked up the man--later identified as Mike McGraw--from a Tucson psychiatric hospital, and were interviewing him. McGraw's statements set off a 48-hour chain of events that ultimately resulted in the arrests and indictments of four young men from Tucson.

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