MANSFIELD — James Roane has been selling cars for two decades and he thought he knew how to read potential buyers.
That was until Monday when he found out a man who took a 2015 GMC SUV for a test drive and never returned is wanted for questioning in a Connecticut homicide investigation.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s bizarre, quite frankly. I’m blown away by it,” Roane, 62, told The Sun Chronicle on Friday.
Qinxuan Pan, 29, the talkative and polite MIT graduate student Roane thought wanted to buy a 2015 GMC Terrain SLE, is a person of interest in the killing of Yale graduate student Kevin Jiang in New Haven, according to police.
Jiang, 26, was shot to death last Saturday in what Connecticut police initially thought was a road rage incident.
“Like you, I talk to people, ask questions. You read people,” Roane said. “He is the furthest of anyone I would think would be involved in something like that.”
Pan took the SUV for a test drive last Saturday morning. It was found in North Haven, Conn. that night on railroad tracks in a scrap yard. The dealer plate had been swapped for a Connecticut one, according to a police report.
When New Haven police went to check a hotel he was supposed to be staying at, he was gone.
The U.S. Marshals office in Connecticut is offering a $5,000 reward for information on his whereabouts and say he was last seen in Georgia.
Mansfield police have obtained and arrest warrant charging Qinxuan with larceny of a motor vehicle.
“He was a gentleman. A perfect gentleman,” Roane said.
Pan initially came to the dealership, which Roane asked not be identified, the Thursday before last saying he was interesting in buying an SUV in the $15,000 price range, and he rejected a Chevrolet Trax Roane suggested.
“He said it was too small,” Roane recalled.
He returned about 11 a.m. last Saturday and settled on the GMC Terrain SLE, Roane said, but not before laying down on the back seats.
“He said, ‘This is good,’” Roane said, adding that Pan explained he did a lot of traveling and would sleep on the road.
“I thought that was odd.” Roane said, adding that the seats in the SUV are too bumpy for someone to sleep on.
“It wouldn’t be good for sleeping in my opinion,” Roane said.
Pan drove off the lot after saying he wanted to have his mechanic look at the vehicle. He agreed to return by the close of business at 5 p.m., but Roane said that was the last he saw of him.
Roane said Pan had texted asking if he could return it after 5 p.m. but was told to return it before the close of business.
Roane, who lives near the dealership, said he went back to work about 7 p.m. and called police when he found vehicle had still not been returned.
According to the police report, Pan, whose last known address is in Malden, claimed in his text to Roane that he had a family emergency and then stopped answering his phone.
Officer Joshua Ellender wrote he also attempted to contact Pan before calling Malden police to ask them to check for the SUV.
Malden police say they spoke to Pan’s mother who told them her son “changed his cellphone number and wouldn’t tell them where he was,” according to the report.
Police put out a bulletin for the vehicle about 10:40 p.m. and five minutes later North Haven police reported finding it in the scrap yard, according to the report.
Police suspect Jiang, who was engaged an MIT student, was targeted but it is not known if Pan knew the woman.
Roane said he was questioned by state police about 11 p.m. last Saturday about his interaction with Pan. He said he is still shocked by the encounter.
“I’m thinking this is the darnedest thing,” Roane said.