The final defendant in the Feb. 25, 1995, murder of Viet Nguyen was sentenced this week to the same punishment his three co-defendants received: life in state prison without the possibility of parole.
Giang Thuy Nguyen, 37, of Fountain Valley (shown at right), and the previously sentenced trio belonged to the same street gang as murder victim Nguyen (no relation).
"Since the day we laid our son to rest, we have never stopped thinking about him, of his infectious smile," Viet Nguyen's father says in a statement that was read in court (via the Orange County District Attorney's office).
"... People tell us they hope we will be able to have some sense of closure. We don't know if we ever will. My other two sons and three daughters have lost their brother. How do you close an open wound in your heart?"
Because Viet Nguyen bolted during the home invasion robbery of a Huntington Beach high school classmate's home he was carrying out with some of the other gang members, those he left behind feared he was going to rat them out. So they conspired to kill him.
Early in the morning on Feb. 25, 1995, Anthony Paul Johnson, Jr. (now 37) of Westminster and Giang Nguyen convinced Viet Nguyen to take Tam Hung Nguyen (now 47) of Riverside with him in his van under the pretense of buying drugs. Giang Nguyen gave Truc Ngoc Tran (now 36) of Santa Ana the keys to another car, which Tran used to follow Viet Nguyen's car without the victim's knowledge.
While Viet Nguyen was driving, Tam Nguyen directed him to drive through various areas in Orange County under the pretense of looking for the home of a specific drug dealer associated with Tam Nguyen. Tam Nguyen, who was riding in the back seat, claimed to feel ill while Viet Nguyen was driving on the northbound 73 freeway in Costa Mesa. When Viet Nguyen pulled the van over to the shoulder, Tam Nguyen pulled out a semi-automatic firearm and shot the victim in the back of the head, executing him.
Tran, who followed the van in a separate car as part of the plan to murder Viet Nguyen, pulled behind the van on the shoulder of the freeway so that Tam Nguyen could get into the car and escape from the scene of the crime. The four killers later met at a motel in Anaheim to procure false alibis in order to hide their involvement in Viet Nguyen's murder.
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To avoid retribution from their gang for murdering a gang associate, the defendants lied to other members of their gang by falsely stating that Viet Nguyen had been killed by a drug dealer in Costa Mesa. It had been a cold case through 2006, when the Costa Mesa Police Department began re-investigating.
Giang Nguyen was found guilty by a jury April 10, 2012, of one felony count of murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder with sentencing enhancement allegations for murder by lying in wait and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang. The sentencing enhancements for murder to avoid arrest and crime-bail-crime against Giang Nguyen were found true.
His sentencing had been delayed due to his attorney becoming ill.