Police officials have taken an unusual approach to solving the January homicide of a St. Paul man who allegedly ran an illegal lottery operation.
The St. Paul police department issued a statement Thursday night attempting to reach out to Wahchong Lee's former gambling customers.
"It is understood that some people may fear becoming the focus of investigation for lottery involvement," the statement said. "Investigators want to be clear that the focus of this investigation is on solving the murder of Wachong Lee -- not participation in the lottery."
Lee, 47, was stabbed to death on January 29, at his St. Paul home. Family members discovered his body, but police believe that lottery customers were at the house before the murder, and may also have arrived after Lee had been killed.
Investigators are concerned that those customers may be reluctant to talk for fear of prosecution. Police officials have publicized the statement widely in Asian communities in the Twin Cities.
"We want to be clear about the fact that the police department's fundamental interest at this point in time really is entirely focused on solving Mr. Lee's murder, and not on somebody's participating in buying lottery numbers from this man," said St. Paul Sgt. Paul Schnell.
Schnell said Lee had been running a local, cash-only gambling operation using the numbers from Thailand's official lottery.
"One of the things that's certainly being considered is whether or not somebody was motivated by a robbery to take money from him, whether or not somebody felt like they were unfairly compensated," Schnell said. "That's what investigators hope to sort out."
Police have asked that anyone with information contact the St. Paul Police Homicide Unit at: 651-266-5650.