Joyce Chiang

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Joyce Chiang
Born Joyce Chiang
(1970-12-07)December 7, 1970
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died ca. January 9, 1999(1999-01-09) (aged 28)
Washington, D.C., United States
Nationality American
Alma mater Smith College
Occupation Attorney

Joyce Chiang (江宜玲 Jiāng Yílíng December 7, 1970 – c. January 9, 1999) was an attorney with the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, who was murdered. Chiang disappeared on January 9, 1999, in Washington, D.C., and was later found dead. The story of her disappearance and the discovery of her remains in the Potomac River, which drew only local news coverage at the time, was rediscovered and received some national attention in the wake of the similar disappearance of Chandra Levy in May 2001.


Joyce Chiang was one of four children and the only daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. Her three brothers John Chiang, who became Controller of the State of California in 2007; Robert Chiang and Roger Chiang, who is currently the Executive In Charge at the television show America's Most Wanted and as of 1999 was working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.[1]

She was born in Chicago and raised in Chicago and California. She graduated from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 1988 and attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she served as president of the Student Government Association in her senior year and graduated in 1992.

Originally a summer intern, after graduation Chiang worked as a legislative aide in the office of Congressman Howard Berman and attended evening classes at the Georgetown University Law Center. She completed a law degree in 1995.

Disappearance and death[edit]

On January 9, 1999, the day of Chiang's disappearance, she had met with several friends for a movie and dinner, and one of those friends offered Joyce a ride home. Joyce asked her friend to make one quick stop at the Starbucks at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue NW and R Street NW. Joyce told her friend that she would walk the four blocks home from the coffee shop, but she never made it to her apartment. Her brother Roger was her roommate and reported her missing. Because Joyce was a federal employee, the FBI took the lead in investigating the case.[1]

A couple walking through Anacostia Park the next day found Chiang's billfold and turned it in to park police, who filed it in the park's lost and found. Four days later, the couple recognized Chiang's photo in media coverage and alerted the FBI, who arranged a search of the park and discovered her apartment keys, video and grocery cards, and gloves. The jacket in which Chiang was last seen was also found, torn down the back.[citation needed]

During the three-month span in which she was missing, a candlelight vigil was held every Saturday night in Dupont Circle. Her brother Roger was instrumental in several televised and print appeals for more information on her case and disappearance.

Three months after the disappearance and eight miles away, a canoeist on the Potomac River found a badly decomposed body later identified through DNA analysis as Chiang's. The cause of death could not be determined, and for more than 12 years, the case was considered a cold case.

In 2001, at the height of the media frenzy surrounding the disappearance of Chandra Levy, police had attempted to defrock a serial killer theory by stating that Joyce had committed suicide. Joyce's family turned to the media to dispel that notion. In January 2011, WTTG-Fox 5 reported that the police had solved Joyce's murder, identifying two suspects who attempted to rob Joyce on the night she disappeared.[2]

In May 2011, the Washington Post and other media reported on the press conference at which DC police acknowledged that Chiang had not committed suicide. Instead, the case was ruled a homicide. They said one suspect was in prison in Maryland for another offense and that another suspect was living in Guyana, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S. According to WTTG-Fox 5, an unnamed "source familiar with the case has identified the men as Steve Allen and Neil Joaquin, two men who worked as a team abducting people off the street with the intention of robbing them."[3] Partly based on similarities to another attack committed by the two men after Chiang's disappearance, police hypothesized that the men drove Chiang to the Anacostia River.[3] The day of the press conference, John Walsh stated that at the river either the men threw her into the water, or Chiang attempted to escape but slipped on the icy river bank and drowned.[4] Although the police did not confirm or deny Walsh's theories, nor were any charges filed, Chiang's family expressed thanks for the closure of the case.[4]

Chandra Levy connection[edit]

In addition to the Congressional intern connection, Chiang had lived four blocks away from where murder victim Chandra Levy would live, in Dupont Circle. Both were young, brunette women of petite stature. The Starbucks where Chiang was last seen was later frequented by Levy. These similarities have led to various theories that both women were killed by the same person, although the Congressman-in-sex-scandal aspect of Levy's case, coupled with the long time that passed before her body was found, led to more media interest.


The Joyce Chiang Memorial Scholarship was established with the help of her family, to support one student each year with an internship at the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) in Washington, D.C.[5]

The Joyce Chiang Memorial Award was established at Georgetown University Law Center by her friends and colleagues. It supports "an evening student with a demonstrable commitment to public service."[6]


  1. ^ a b Dean, Eddie (July 30, 1999). "The Murder Victim Next Door". Washington City Paper. Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ Wagner, Paul (January 25, 2011). "New Developments in Death of Prominent Federal Attorney Joyce Chiang; Vanished from Dupont Circle 12 Years Ago". WTTG Fox 5 News / Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Wagner, Paul (May 12, 2011). "2 Men Named in Mysterious Disappearance, Death of Joyce Chiang". WTTG Fox 5 News / Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Gilchrist, Aaron (May 13, 2011). "Serial Rapists Killed Joyce Chiang: John Walsh". NBC4 Washington. Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ Asian American Justice Center. "Development: Support AAJC: Contribute to a Scholarship". Retrieved April 9, 2012. 
  6. ^ Georgetown University Law Center. "2011-2012 Georgetown Law Bulletin" (PDF). p. 198. Retrieved April 9, 2012. 

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