In front of a packed Norristown courtroom, the wife and daughter of slain businessman Robert Chae Monday relived the ordeal of telling a jury how they watched a group of home invaders duct-tape and beat him to death in the family's garage.
"I was panicking. I was screaming," Janice Chae testified in Korean through an interpreter, pausing occasionally for deep breaths. "One of the men ran inside with a gun, and the other men dragged my husband inside."
She wept while telling that story during a three-week trial in January. The effort, though, had led to convictions against two of the three men accused of barging into her family's Montgomery Township home and killing her husband, a beauty-supply retailer, in January 2009.
So the Chaes repeated their accounts Monday as prosecution witnesses against an accused strategist of the attack, the last of seven defendants to face charges related to the attack after the January trial and three guilty pleas.
Although Julius Wise, 34, never went to the Chaes' house and was laid up from hip-replacement surgery at the time, he is accused of conspiring in the plot that led to Chae's suffocation murder.
Assistant District Attorney Todd Stephens told jurors that Wise held planning sessions on his Frankford porch, hid contraband stolen from the Chae house, lent his cell phone to the raiding party, and collected $1,500 for his work, thus is liable for the slaying.
As Stephens delivered his opening statement, the Chaes sat patiently around a table in a courthouse hallway waiting to be called to testify.
They did not see Stephens insert Wise into a slide show of the others convicted in the case and did not hear, again, the story of family betrayal in which their relative, Angelo Shin, helped assemble the gang to rob his uncle Robert Chae's wall safe.
"This was a very well-planned, well-organized scheme to commit this robbery," Stephens said.
Wise's attorney, Leigh Narducci, said this accusation was simply overblown and that Wise would testify to say he had a minimal role.
"He's charged with murder in the second degree because he lent one of the perpetrators his cell phone," Narducci said.
The trial's start filled the courtroom gallery with interns from the county District Attorney's and Public Defender Offices, and the publicity from the three-week January trial led to County Court Judge Thomas P. Rogers importing a jury for Wise from Lackawanna County.
The Chaes, however, showed only signs of pressure from their own memories. After trudging to the witness stand, Minna Chae told the jurors of being startled awake, ordered around her home, and, eventually, of finding her father bloody and unresponsive.
"I just turned the bedroom knob," she said, "and I was at gunpoint."
The trial continues Tuesday.