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She was shy and a victim of murder

Except for the telephone on the dining room table, which had a bent antenna suggesting it had been dropped, Lan Hoa Quach found nothing unusual about his house when he got in from work Sunday night.

The television was on but the lights were off, so he flicked on the switch and went to his bedroom. He took off his dark green suit, hung it in the closet, and laid on his back, savoring his bed for about 15 minutes.

Then it was time for his shower. He wrapped a towel around his waist and walked toward the bathroom.

What he saw horrified him.

It was his 22-year-old cousin, Sukyee Chang, slumped over the bathtub. She was wearing a top and nothing else. At first, Quach thought she had fallen while taking a shower.

Then he got closer.

He saw her hands tied behind her back, and a cleaver on the bathtub close to the body. But there was hardly any blood, Quach, 28, said Monday afternoon.

"I'd never seen anything like that before. It gets very cold," Quach said.

Quach, thinking his cousin could still be alive, went for the telephone, but it didn't work. He got dressed and drove to the nearby Hao Wah Chinese Restaurant where Chang worked, and dialed 911. He never touched the body, Quach said.

Monday, Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole said the victim suffered "trauma to the head." But because of the ongoing investigation, he refused to discuss the case in detail.

He declined to say whether there were signs of forced entry at the house at 4004 W Estrella Ave.

Quach, however, said the front door is usually hard to open, but that Sunday night it opened easily.

Cole said police had no suspects in the case, and that the motive was "unclear at this time."

Quach said he had no idea why someone would want to hurt his cousin, whom he described as shy and generous.

Chang was born in Hong Kong and traveled frequently between Tampa and Venezuela, where her family lives. She moved into the three-bedroom house with Quach in September.

She initially wanted to become a nurse, Quach said, but started concentrating on drawing because she was worried about getting AIDS by handling blood.

He last saw her Sunday morning, as he was leaving for work at the Hao Wah Chinese Restaurant in St. Petersburg, where he's the manager. She was waiting for a friend to go downtown to the "Taste of Florida."

"She was very happy," he said.

The friend, a waitress she worked with, last saw her between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Quach, meanwhile, already is thinking about selling the house.

"I feel very sad and very cold," said Quach, who is now staying with his parents in Town 'N Country. "I don't want to live alone.

"It's so scary."

_ PAUL DE LA GARZA

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