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Posted on Thu, Feb. 28, 2002
Pizza delivery may have been ambush
SUSPECT LATER FOUND DEAD
By Sean Webby and Lisa Krieger
Dr. Tanya Holzmayer, a pioneering scientist, was surprised Wednesday
night to find a Domino's Pizza deliveryman at the front door of her Mountain
Moments later, a former colleague appeared out of the dark, shot her
dead and ran off, police said.
Guyang ``Matthew'' Huang called his wife in Foster City with the news:
I just killed my ex-boss. Now I'm going to kill myself.
Within an hour, a jogger found Huang's body off a path near the San Mateo
Bridge. A cell phone was in Huang's pocket and a .380-caliber handgun
lay near his hand.
Investigators on Thursday were just beginning to put together the details
of the deadly nexus between the two immigrant scientists.
``It looked like an ambush,'' said Mountain View Police spokesman Jim
Bennett. ``He may have used the pizza to lure her out.''
A former colleague of both Holzmayer and Huang thinks he knows the motive:
Holzmayer fired Huang from his job at PPD Discovery, a biotech company
in Menlo Park, according to Dr. Igor B. Roninson.
``She told me she got orders from senior management to fire him,'' said
Roninson, a genomic scientist with the University of Illinois-Chicago
and a consultant for PPD. ``She had to fulfill those orders, but was very
upset. She had no choice, no options.
``But this is a year later!''
A company spokeswoman said Huang left PPD in June, but she wouldn't confirm
that he was fired. Neither Huang nor Holzmayer were still with the company.
Holzmayer had quit in December to start her own biotech venture.
Both Holzmayer, 46, and Huang, 38, were highly regarded in genetics.
She was a Russian-born genomic scientist who had co-invented a tool that
has helped find hundreds of molecular targets to combat cancer and HIV.
He was a brilliant scholar -- scoring 11th out of 230,000 students on
his college entrance exams in China -- and an activist who fought for
reform in his homeland once he came to the United States to study in 1986.
Outside of the company's Menlo Park office on Thursday, puffy-eyed employees
gathered in small groups but shook their heads when approached by a reporter.
On Wednesday, just past 8:30 p.m., the Domino's deliveryman had pulled
up to Holzmayer's home on Windmill Park Lane. Holzmayer and her teenage
son were inside when the doorbell rang. She told the deliveryman that
she hadn't ordered a pizza, according to Mountain View police.
Huang appeared from behind the deliveryman. He shot Holzmayer several
times at close range in the chest and head, police said. As Holzmayer
fell in her doorway, Huang ran to a Ford Explorer and drove away.
Police said the deliveryman witnessed the shooting but was not involved.
A Domino's spokeswoman said the driver wasn't hurt, but would be offered
counseling and time off.
Just a few doors away, the Brogan family heard the shots, then the tires
screeching, and saw the deliveryman running in a panic. After calling
911, Evan Brogan went with his mother, Micheline, a nurse, to their neighbors'
home. Holzmayer was lying in her doorway with no pulse.
``We were just trying to help. But she was gone,'' Evan said.
Less than an hour after the shooting, Huang called his wife, according
to Foster City Police Capt. Craig Courtin. He told her about the shooting
and that he was going to kill himself, police said. He told her he was
near their home by the bay. Then he hung up.
Huang's wife called 911, and Foster City police used search dogs to comb
the area. They ran into a jogger who had seen Huang's body lying off the
walkway that locals call ``The Levee.'' He had fired a single bullet into
his head, according to Robert Foucrault, San Mateo County's acting coroner.
Soon afterward, police interviewed Huang's wife, whom they wouldn't identify.
She said she believed that her husband had killed Holzmayer and told them
where they both had worked.
People who answered the door Thursday at Huang's apartment declined any
Holzmayer and her family came to the United States in 1989, according
to Roninson, a classmate of hers at Moscow State University in Russia.
She was an intellectual, he said, torn between becoming a classical pianist
or a scientist. She chose genomics over her beloved Chopin, focusing on
helping create new drugs that interfere with replication of the virus
that causes AIDS.
Until December, Holzmayer had served a four-year tenure as senior vice
president of genomics for PPD Discovery, a division of PPD Inc. of Wilmington,
N.C. It was at PPD Discovery that Holzmayer met Huang, who began working
as the firm's director of molecular biology and bioinformatics in early
Roninson said Huang ``gave a perfectly normal, charismatic impression.''
Holzmayer told Roninson two weeks ago that she had just received funding
for her new start-up venture to use modern methodologies to develop new
``She said she had never felt so happy in her life.''
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