IPSWICH — The owner of the Majestic Dragon Chinese restaurant was found dead by employees reporting for work yesterday morning.

The death of Shui Keung Woo, who went by "Tony," is Ipswich's first homicide since 1975.

Investigators are not releasing the cause or details of Woo's death — except to confirm it is suspicious — until a medical examiner's report is complete.

Restaurant employees found their boss just before 11:30 a.m., near the restaurant kitchen, said Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. Woo was pronounced dead at the scene.

Woo, a 62-year-old Quincy resident, had operated his family-run restaurant for more than two decades. The Route 1 eatery has a popular bar and loyal following of regular customers.

Ipswich police Chief Paul Nikas, whose department is investigating Woo's death along with the district attorney and state police, said Woo was well-liked and well-known in town.

"We've never had any issues here," Nikas said at an afternoon press conference.

Woo was last seen alive after midnight yesterday morning, Blodgett said.

At yesterday's press conference, Blodgett wouldn't say whether investigators had any suspects or if there was evidence of forced entry into the building.

"An autopsy is pending. ... We're processing the crime scene," he said. "We're not going to speculate on a motive."

Yesterday, the restaurant property was surrounded with yellow crime-scene tape. Numerous unmarked, Ipswich and state police vehicles came in and out of the parking lot.

A cluster of restaurant employees could be seen in the parking lot as investigators went in and out of the building, some wearing latex gloves and white booties over their shoes.

Later in the afternoon, investigators seemed to focus on the restaurant roof. An Ipswich fire ladder truck arrived and extended its ladder over the rear of the restaurant so investigators could get a closer look.

Curious onlookers, many of them regulars of the restaurant, stopped and watched the police activity. Several people said Woo would sometimes sleep overnight at the restaurant, if he worked late.

Ann Stanley, who lives a couple of houses down from the restaurant, said she would have never suspected foul play.

"I could sleep with my doors open. (But) now I won't," Stanley said. "I can leave the keys in my car overnight. Nobody ever bothers you here."

Majestic Dragon is north of the Linebrook Road intersection of Route 1, across the street from a golf driving range.

Corporation paperwork filed with the state lists Shui Keung Woo and Annie Woo of 32 Wallace Road, Quincy, as president and secretary of the company.

State Rep. Brad Hill, who lives in Hamilton and represents Ipswich, stopped by to take in the scene yesterday. Hill, who said he knew Woo, called it a sad day for Ipswich.

Majestic Dragon is like the famous bar Cheers, Hill said, where everybody knows your name.

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