AP NEWS

Search for Answers in Slaying

February 18, 2019

and Aaron Curtis

acurtis@lowellsun.com

LOWELL -- Tony Iem dropped to his knees and let out an anguished cry when he saw the blood in the snow on Spring Avenue Sunday morning.

As tears streamed down his face, his wife, Vany Iem, and family friend, Michael Chea, placed their hands on his shoulders, trying to comfort him while fighting back their own tears.

This spot, at the opening of Spring Avenue near Walker Street, is where Tony’s brother, Jimmy Iem, 30, of Lowell, was shot Saturday night, and later died from his wounds.

His family members identified Jimmy as the victim of the 6:20 p.m. shooting. The three had come to the area about 10:30 a.m. Sunday in search of the spot where Jimmy’s life was taken, to try to find answers.

Tony, 25, said Jimmy was the second oldest in their family of six siblings; Tony is the youngest.

“Jimmy was my protector,” Tony said.

Jimmy leaves behind two sons, ages 5 and 3, Tony said.

Tony said Jimmy had come to the neighborhood with his 3-year-old son to visit a friend. Jimmy went outside to grab his phone from his car, parked on Spring Avenue at the intersection, when he was shot, Tony said. He wasn’t sure which house Jimmy had been in, but he and Vany said Jimmy’s son had still been inside when the shots were fired outdoors.

Lowell police and the office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said preliminary information indicated it was not a random incident, suggesting the gunman and the victim knew one another. The victim was taken to Lowell General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

As of Saturday night, the District Attorney’s Office had no new information to provide about the investigation, according to District Attorney spokeswoman Meghan Kelly.

Chea, 25, said he’d known Jimmy for about 10 years and described him as a loving and caring man.

“He cared about his siblings a lot,” Chea said. “Family was everything to him.”

Tony said Jimmy had just returned from a few days away with his girlfriend, in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Vany, 27, said there had been a big family gathering around the time of the Super Bowl that drew relatives from California. Tony said they had gotten together as a send-off for another brother, who was moving to Florida. It was the last time he saw Jimmy, and they made plans to get together.

“We were supposed to hang out,” Tony said, fighting back tears. “He wanted to spend more time with me.”

Early Sunday afternoon, a large group had gathered on Spring Avenue around a memorial of candles, piles of flowers -- including a dozen yellow roses -- religious figurines, one of Jimmy’s favorite hats and bottles of beverages he’d enjoyed.

The vigil grew as the day progressed. Shortly before 6 p.m., incense lit at the memorial filled the air, and could be smelled a block away from the site.

Various family members and people who knew Jimmy stopped at the memorial to talk about the 30-year-old, including Cheri Chonn. Chonn knew Jimmy since he was a teenager. She described him as a respectful individual who came from a close-knit family.

“It’s so hard and it’s so cruel when all he wanted to do was be with his children,” said Cheri Chonn, fighting back tears. “Things like this are what makes a city or town so awful.”

Prasith Abhire described Jimmy as “the life of the party.”

“You never heard him arguing with anybody,” she said. “He was always smiling and joking around.”

“He was a character,” Chhon added.

Vany said they were awaiting family that was flying in, and hoping for some kind of word from the authorities as to a suspect. She said the last they’d heard was that police were checking any surveillance video in the area to try to determine exactly what happened.

“There’s no closure,” Vany said.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson and Aaron Curtis @aselahcurtis.

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