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Another piece of the puzzle: MIT grad student wanted in Yale murder steals SUV from car dealership, swaps plates

On the day of Kevin Jiang’s murder, person of interest took the car for a test drive and told the dealership, in another state, and never returned it, claiming he had a “family emergency”

The fugitive wanted for the murder of a Yale graduate student allegedly stole an SUV on the day of the murder, which appears to have been preceded by a vehicle collision.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Kevin Jiang was found fatally shot in New Haven on February 6. His body was found next to his Prius, which had rear-end damage, indicating a possible collision. Jiang, 26, was graduate student at Yale’s School of the Environment, and had recently become engaged to Zion Perry, a graduate student in another program at Yale.

Within days of Jian’s death, police in New Haven, Connecticut, said they suspected that Jiang was targeted.

“This was not a drive-by. This was much more up close,” New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes told reporters in early February, according to the New Haven Register.

Less than a week after the murder, police named Qinxuan Pan, a 29-year-old artificial intelligence researcher at MIT, a person of interest in the murder investigation. Pan, who had met and socialized with Perry when she was an undergraduate at MIT, remains at large on a warrant for larceny.

Police have not yet named him a suspect in the homicide. As the New Haven Register reports, detectives questioned Pan shortly after the murder, when he was found with a vehicle at a scrapyard not far from where Jiang’s body was found. The vehicle was reportedly stuck on a railroad track, and police arranged for a tow after Pan gave them the vehicle’s registration information — which he allegedly falsified, replacing the dealer’s plates with Connecticut license plates.

By the time police in New Haven sought Pan for further questioning, he had fled, and is reportedly believed to have traveled to Georgia.

The vehicle found with Pan the night of Jiang’s murder was allegedly stolen from a car dealership in Mansfield, Massachusetts.

According to a Mansfield police report obtained by the New Haven Register, Pan took a GMC Terrain SUV for a test drive at about 11 a.m. February 6, saying that he was going to have it inspected by his mechanic. When the dealership called him at 5:30 p.m. looking for the car, Pan reportedly asked for more time, claiming he was addressing a family emergency. He stopped responding to calls and messages from the dealership after he was told that he would need to return the vehicle before closing.

As the report shows, by 7:30 p.m., a salesman reported the car as stolen, but there was a delay between the salesman’s report and police entering the vehicle as missing. A police officer who wrote the report said that the salesman had “vouched” for Pan, saying he didn’t believe he took the vehicle. It is unclear why the salesman reported the vehicle stolen if he did not believe Pan had intended to steal it.

The officer reportedly entered the vehicle as stolen at 10:40 p.m. Five minutes later, the officer learned that the vehicle in question had been towed in New Haven. The report indicates that police in New Haven were not aware that Pan had concealed the vehicle’s tags until after the Mansfield police officer entered it as stolen.

Earlier that night, before the Mansfield police officer entered the vehicle as stolen, police in Malden, Massachusetts, went to an address associated with Pan to look for the car.

There, a relative reportedly told police they believed Pan would return the vehicle, but changed his cell phone number and refused to tell the relative where he was.

As CT Insider reports, authorities have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Pan’s apprehension, and have warned that anyone who is aware of his whereabouts to use “extreme caution” and contact New Haven police at  203-946-6304.

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