A researcher in the United States that was studying the coronavirus pandemic was shot and killed in an apparent murder-suicide at his home in Pennsylvania. 37-year-old research professor Bing Liu was shot multiple times in the middle of the day on Saturday, May 2nd, according to police. Liu was a University of Pittsburgh research assistant professor who just recently started working on a COVID-19 related project and was said to be on the brink of a major discovery in his quest to understand the virus.
Liu has been contributing to several scientific projects, and has been published in a number of high-profile scientific journals. Liu has also co-authored over 30 publications, including four so far in 2020, and an entire book. Most recently, he had three publications in Nature Chem Biol, three in Radiation Research, two in Scientific Reports, one in Science Signaling, one in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, and another one in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
In a statement to the press, the university called Mr. Liu an outstanding and prolific researcher and an excellent mentor, and noted that he was on the verge of making very significant findings in understanding the coronavirus.
"Bing was on the verge of making very significant findings toward understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie SARS-CoV-2 infection and the cellular basis of the following complications. We will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence,” the statement read.
Ross police later identified the primary suspect as 46-year-old Hao Gu, who reportedly shot and killed himself in a parked car about 100 yards away from the murder. However, police have given no indication of what a possible motive could be. The only clues that have been revealed to the public thus far is that nothing was stolen from his home and there were no signs of forced entry. Ross police Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp also revealed that the men knew each other but did not give any further details about their relationship.
An autopsy found that Liu was shot multiple times, including in the head, neck, and torso, the passed away from the resulting injuries.
Dr. Liu received his BS and Ph.D. in Computer Science, at the National University of Singapore, under the supervision of Drs. P.S. Thiagarajan and David Hsu, and did his postdoctoral studies in the lab of Professor Dr. Edmund Clarke at Carnegie Mellon University. A few years ago he joined the Bahar lab at the University of Pittsburgh, as a Research Associate, and was recently promoted to a Research Assistant Professor position within the department.
Liu was married, but his wife was not home at the time of the murder. Neighbors say that the Liu family kept to themselves and Bing's co-workers said that he was a positive and well-liked person with no known enemies.
This is just one of many strange cases of coronavirus researchers losing their lives under mysterious circumstances, although in most cases, the deaths appear to have been caused by suicide. This is the first time that an obvious murder has taken place.