"I was confused about how this could occur, this tragedy, and that it was my fault," Shin testified yesterday in Montgomery County court.
Having already pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in September, Shin testified against the three men - Joseph Page, 23; Amatadi Latham, 25; and Karre Pitts, 18 - who are accused of carrying out the brutal home invasion. All three face second-degree murder charges, which carry an automatic life sentence upon conviction.
Chae and his wife, Janice, were attacked by three men when they opened their garage door about 5 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2009, to leave for work at their store, Penn Beauty Supply, in Philadelphia's Suburban Station.
The men forced Janice Chae to open the family safe, which contained between $15,000 and $20,000, before she was thrown into the basement with her two children Richard, 30, and Minna, 25.
Robert Chae was kept in the garage, where he was bound and his head was covered with duct tape, except for a small slit under his nose. When the intruders beat him so badly that they broke his nose, blood clotting constricted Chae's breathing and he suffocated.
Shin said that when he first discussed the robbery with Page, whom he had met through a security guard at his aunt and uncle's store, he was told that the robbery would be "in and out" and "quick and easy."
But he found out from his cousin shortly after the invasion that the robbery was anything but easy.
When Shin met Page in front of his house later that day, he asked him why he had to kill his uncle.
"He said he just had to do what he had to do . . . and he just laughed it off," Shin testified. "He said it was OK, it was all good and just keep a low profile."
Despite his shock at his uncle's death, Shin said that he accepted $2,000 from Page for his role in the crime.
Shin, who lived with the Chaes for 18 months when he was younger, then invited the family to live with him and his parents.
"You would get up and have breakfast with them every day, knowing you are the one that led to their father's death," Page's attorney, Stephen Heckman, said to Shin.
Defense attorneys questioned Shin's credibility - since he was charged for initially giving a false statement to police - and his motives, suggesting that he was testifying in exchange for pleading guilty to the lesser charge of third-degree murder.
Shin denied the accusations.
"My goal is to have closure for my aunt, my family and my cousins, and to put my uncle's soul to rest," he said. "I want to bring whoever murdered my uncle and whoever was involved - including me - to justice."