THE SUPREME Court yesterday upheld the acquittal of 55-year-old Thanaporn “Sor 4” Chaicheewinlikhit, the fourth wife of deceased billionaire Cheewin Chaicheewinlikhit, over charges of murdering Cheewin’s second wife.
Thanaporn’s aide Kittiya Kanokkhun, 54, was also acquitted.
The court said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the two women, who were only implicated in the crime by other defendants, while they had both consistently declared their innocence.
The court also upheld life sentences for three other suspects, namely Mangkorn Worasan, 32; Uthen Jandawan, 33; and Jamras Torpan, 62; while 53-year-old defendant Trai Torphan’s sentence was reduced to 34 years and four months.
Cheewin’s second wife Aranya Leungsaengtham, mother of the billionaire’s eldest son Newin and sibling Kanda, was killed at a salon in Khon Kaen’s Chum Phae district on March 1, 2009 by a group of gunmen.
In 2012, a court initially sentenced all six individuals to death, including Thanaporn and Kittiya, with Thanaporn found guilty of hiring the gunmen.
The court then lowered the four men’s sentences to life in prison because of their confessions, while the two women were released on bail guarantees of Bt1.5 million each.
Last year, the Appeals Court acquitted the two women while maintaining life imprisonment for the four men.
Cheewin’s assets, worth about Bt1 billion, reportedly led to disputes among his five wives and children. Cheewin later divorced all his wives and put his assets under the care of his three children, including Newin and Kanda.
The billionaire succumbed to a chronic illness in April 2006 at a hospital in Bangkok, a year after he was targeted by a failed assassination attempt.
After Aranya’s murder, gunmen opened fire at a car carrying Newin and his friends in June 2010, resulting in injuries. In October 2010, Newin’s house was hit by a grenade and M16 bullets, but nobody was home at the time.
With three seemingly related cases on their hands, Provincial Police Region 4 investigators identified Araya’s shooter, Mangkorn, and his getaway driver Uthen. Both of them implicated Jamras and Trai as the men who had commissioned the crimes.
Investigators then alleged that Thanaporn and Kittiya had also played a role in Aranya’s murder.
Thanaporn’s lawyer Saengpol Punyarattanothai said the two women were not present at the reading of the verdict for fear of their safety because there are still many more outstanding lawsuits and disputes regarding the deceased billionaire’s assets. He added that Thanaporn and Kittiya had been acquitted on May 23 in a different court case in Loei on charges of having tried to commission the murder of Newin.