By Bethany Bray
IPSWICH — State police combed the woods and property around the Majestic Dragon restaurant yesterday, searching for clues into Ipswich's first homicide in more than three decades.
The owner of the Route 1 eatery, Shui Keung Woo, was found dead by employees reporting to work Tuesday morning.
Investigators have yet to release the cause or details of Woo's death. Steve O'Connell, spokesperson for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said he had no further information to release yesterday.
An autopsy was scheduled for yesterday. O'Connell said Woo's cause of death will be released eventually, but not this early into the investigation.
Yesterday, yellow crime scene tape still surrounded the restaurant as people stopped by to leave flowers and other mementos in front of the building.
Teams of state troopers canvassed the woods and properties along Route 1 north and south of the restaurant yesterday morning, wearing latex gloves. A state police helicopter circled the area later in the day.
"As part of a thorough investigation, police are searching for any evidence that may be connected to the case," O'Connell said.
Woo, who went by "Tony," is remembered by many who frequented the restaurant as fun-loving and well-liked. Numerous people posted condolence messages to the Woo family on the restaurant's Facebook page yesterday, describing Woo as a kind friend.
Woo, a 62-year-old Quincy resident, has operated his family-run Chinese restaurant for more than two decades.
Barbara Siebers, who frequented the Majestic Dragon with her husband, Mike, for years before moving to Florida, called Woo "a very generous man."
"The Dragon, affectionately called 'House of Woo' by the regulars, was the Cheers (bar, where everybody knows your name), a home away from home spot," Siebers wrote in an email to the Salem News. "This news (of Woo's death) is unbelievable."
Ipswich police Chief Paul Nikas said his department had not responded to calls of any type at the Majestic Dragon in the past year. The last time Ipswich police checked out a tripped alarm at the restaurant was more than a year ago, he said.
Investigators would not comment on the speculation that Woo's death could be linked to other crimes in the area, including an armed robbery last week at Skip's Country Store on Route 133 in Rowley.
Majestic Dragon employees found their boss just before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, near the restaurant kitchen. Woo was pronounced dead at the scene. He was last seen alive after midnight the night before, according to investigators.
Ipswich's most recent homicide, in the 1970s, also sent shock waves through the small town.
Gordon Haas was charged with the murder of his pregnant wife and two small children, who were found asphyxiated with plastic bags over their heads.
The family was biracial, and Haas tried to deflect the investigation away from him by claiming they had received racial threats.