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Fugitive captured in fatal stabbing of Cherry Hill war veteran

Victor Yan, 26, allegedly killed Brett Berdini, 28, who served two tours with the Army in Afghanistan.

Brett Berdini.
Brett Berdini.Read moreSchetter Funeral Home

A 26-year-old man wanted in the fatal stabbing in Chinatown of a 28-year-old Afghanistan War veteran from Cherry Hill was captured by authorities Tuesday morning in Southwest Philadelphia.

Victor Yan has been accused of killing Brett Berdini, who was attacked by a group in the 1000 block of Race Street shortly before 2 a.m. last Oct. 14.

The attack, including the stabbing, was recorded on a camera phone by one of the assailants and shared among the attackers and others for their amusement, said Anthony Voci Jr., chief of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office homicide unit.

“We have a generation that is apparently obsessed with recording just about everything, and that includes violent crimes,” Voci said.

Voci said the defendants regarded the video as a “trophy.”

Yan and his girlfriend, Lena Huynh, who also is a defendant in the case, fled to Virginia to hide immediately after the attack, Voci said. Huynh later surrendered to authorities.

At some point, Yan returned to Philadelphia, and on Monday night he re-emerged on social media, which led authorities to his location, Voci said.

Around 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, members of the U.S. Marshals Eastern Pennsylvania Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force executed a search warrant on a residence in the 6700 block of Woodland Avenue where he was believed to be hiding, said Robert Clark, supervisory deputy U.S. marshal in Philadelphia.

“As marshals entered the property, Yan attempted to escape by climbing onto the rooftop,” Clark said in a statement. “A brief standoff ensued, and Yan eventually surrendered to police.”

Berdini and his girlfriend, an attorney with a Philadelphia law firm, were celebrating her birthday when Berdini had an altercation with a man driving a car on Race, Voci said. That turned into a brief fight between Berdini and the driver, but that ended and the driver left the scene.

Two nearby groups with no connection to the driver saw the altercation and decided to pursue Berdini, said Voci, who described the groups as a “bloodthirsty mob.”

Berdini’s girlfriend tried to plead for them to stop but was attacked and suffered a broken nose, Voci said.

Berdini, who was beaten and stomped before he was stabbed, died three days later in the hospital.

A break came when the stabbing video was found on a smuggled phone at a state prison near Altoona. That led to the arrest on April 1 in Allentown of Samuel Sithisong, 36, who is facing murder and related charges in Berdini’s death.

The attack also was recorded by several surveillance cameras in the area.

At least five other people are in custody in the case, court records show.

On Tuesday, two teenage boys also admitted in court to their roles in the attack, Voci said.

Berdini served two tours with the Army in Afghanistan and was a finalist to become a firefighter with a department in South Jersey, Voci said.

“It was his life’s ambition to be a police officer or a firefighter, whichever opportunity presented itself first,” Voci said.

“This was a horrific and senseless act of violence,” said Clark of the U.S. marshals. “I am hoping the victim’s family can now have some closure knowing Yan is in custody.”