The former MIT researcher accused of murdering a Yale graduate student and subsequently leading authorities on a months-long manhunt until his ultimate capture in Alabama was deemed competent to stand trial despite his attorneys claiming he was refusing to talk to them about his own defense.
Qinxuan Pan, once a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer science and artificial intelligence researcher originally from China, is charged with murder in connection to the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Yale University graduate student Kevin Jiang on Feb. 6, 2021, in New Haven, Connecticut.
More than 21 months after the shooting, which happened in the street outside of Jiang’s fiancée, Zion Perry’s apartment, Pan has been deemed competent to stand trial, The New Haven Register reported.
Following a brief competency hearing in state Superior Court in New Haven on Monday morning, Pan's lawyer, Norm Pattis, said that "it was an unambiguous finding," so "we will go forward with litigating this case."
Pan has still not entered a plea in the case.
During what was originally supposed to be Pan’s probable cause hearing in September, Pattis instead made a motion for a competency exam, telling the judge that he was unsure if his client was refusing to talk to him or was just unable to communicate certain aspects of the case. Pan is a U.S. citizen who was born in Shanghai.
After Monday’s hearing, a new probable cause hearing date has been set for Dec. 5.
Jiang, who served in the U.S. Army and National Guard, was born in Seattle and grew up in Chicago. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Washington and before eventually coming to Yale to pursue a graduate degree in environmental studies. He was described by friends and family as a devout Christian and proposed to Perry, a fellow graduate student at Yale, just a week before he was murdered.
Perry previously attended undergrad at MIT and was photographed talking at a college dance with Pan in 2020. The two were reportedly friends on Facebook, where Perry had posted about her engagement to Jiang.
The day of the murder, Pan allegedly stole a compact SUV from a Massachusetts car dealership by taking it for a test drive and changed his cell phone number before crossing state lines to Connecticut.
The vehicle later needed to be towed from railroad tracks in North Haven, Connecticut, not long after Jiang had been fatally shot in nearby New Haven. Police briefly questioned Jiang at a motel in the area but let him go because they initially had a different description of the suspect, according to court documents.
Initially named a person of interest in Jiang’s killing, Pan was formally charged with murder on Feb. 26, 2021, through a warrant issued by the New Haven State’s Attorney's Office.
But months passed with him in the wind despite nationwide and international search efforts. The U.S. Marshals Service said Pan had been spotted in the early morning hours on Feb. 11, 2021, driving with family members in Brookhaven or Duluth, Georgia. The search later expanded globally and an Interpol Red Notice was issued.
That was until May 2022 when Pan was eventually nabbed in Birmingham, Alabama, at an apartment rented under a fake name with $19,000 cash, seven cell phones, seven SIM cards and his father’s passport.
By the September hearing, the defense had already been granted several delays in the case to allow time to review evidence. But even so, Pattis told State Superior Court Judge Jon Alander, in requesting the competency exam, that his client had indicated that it’s possible there was "a second person was involved." Pattis suggested Pan could have been at the scene where Jiang was shot but did not pull the trigger or may not have been there at all.