Richard Lam Nguyen
Richard Lam Nguyen
Courtesy of Garden Grove Police Department

Richard Nguyen, Phillipe Zamora and Wendell Lemond Learn Bloody Fates

A Garden Grove man who choked his elderly mother to death because she wanted him to study medicine instead of pharmacy was convicted of manslaughter this morning.

Prosecutors wanted murder.

They did get it for a North Carolina man who helped a greedy woman kill a Westminster fortune teller and her daughter before white paint was poured over their hands and faces. He was recently sentenced to 27 years to life in state prison for the murders.

And an Indianapolis man linked through DNA evidence to the cold-case homicide of a 20-year-old single mother in her Anaheim apartment during the Reagan administration got 25 years to life.

The bizarre deaths of 52-year-old fortune teller Ha Smith and her college student daughter Anita Vo, 23, were previously covered here.

The case against Richard Lam Nguyen, the 31-year-old UCI Irvine graduate who strangled and killed his dear old mom Nuong Nguyen, 71, was previously blogged about here.

Nguyen was found guilty by a jury today of one felony count of voluntary manslaughter. He faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in state prison at his May 21 sentencing in Santa Ana.

He was back home for the winter break from his first-year pharmacy studies at Ross University in Dominica, located in the Caribbean, late Dec. 20, 2008, when he and his mother argued because she wanted him to become a physician instead of a pharmacist.

The son became so enraged that he strangled his mother to death with his hands in his bedroom. He then left her 5-foot tall, 80-pound body in the room and slept in his car before calling police the next morning to report he had hurt his mother and she was dead.

Phillipe Zamora, 55, of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, pleaded guilty April 14, 2009, to two felony counts of first degree murder.

He had testified against his co-defendant, Tanya Jaime Nelson, 46, also of Roanoke Rapids.

She was found guilty Feb. 16 of two felony counts of special circumstances murder by a jury that earlier this month recommended the death penalty for her. Nelson's formal sentencing is Friday in Santa Ana.

In April 2005, Nelson and Zamora flew out from North Carolina under the pretense of visiting Smith and getting Nelson's fortune told. Smith worked out of her home and had clients from all over the country, including Nelson and Zamora's wife.

But the North Carolinians really came April 21, 2005, to murder and rob Smith, who was known to keep expensive jewelry in her house.

Using knives from the kitchen, Nelson stabbed and murdered Vo as Zamora stabbed and murdered Smith. The mother was left face down on the kitchen floor, where she bled to death after being stabbed in the head, face, neck, shoulders and hands.

Vo was left to bleed to death from multiple stab wounds to her head, face and neck on the laundry room floor, with her head jutting out into the hallway that led to the kitchen.

After washing the bloody knives and wrapping them in plastic bags, the murderers ransacked the home, stealing purses, jewelry, cell phones and credit cards among other items.

They then drove to Walmart to purchase white paint, which they poured over Smith and Vo's heads and hands. Zamora also covered Vo's face with a black shirt.

The pair returned to North Carolina on April 22, 2005, the same day Westminster police officers discovered the bodies.

Nelson then did something really stupid: she returned to Orange County in May 2005 after purchasing plane tickets with one of the murdered women's credit cards. Once here, she went on a shopping spree with their cards at South Coast Plaza.

Westminster detectives arrested her May 30, 2005, at a Holiday Inn in Santa Ana, where they also found the victims' stolen credit cards, identification cards and designer luggage.

Zamora was popped June 1, 2005, back home in North Carolina.

Wendell Patrick Lemond, 51, was found guilty by a jury July 21, 2009, of one felony count of first degree murder in the strangulation slaying of Anaheim's Catherine Tameny early the morning of Aug. 5, 1985.

She worked with Lemond at an Anaheim business. He came to her apartment and bound the hands of the woman's 2-year-old toddler, who was left in the living room as Lemond wrapped a clock cord around her neck, murdered her and sexually assaulted her.

Tameny was discovered with her shirt pulled up to her upper torso and naked from the waist down by her mother and step-father.

Lemond was identified as a suspect early on, but prosecutors say there was insufficient evidence to charge him at that time. He moved to Idaho several months after the murder, and later Indiana.

DNA evidence, including a swab taken off the victim's breast, had been collected from the crime scene. In 2007, that evidence matched Lemond's DNA through technology that did not exist in 1985.

He was extradited Aug. 30, 2007, from Indiana to faces charges in Orange County.

During today's sentencing, Tameny's mother, sister, brother and son gave victim-impact statements, explaining what life has been like for them the past 22 years without Tameny while Lemond was free to live his life.

Nick Medina, the little boy Lemond had bound in the living room in 1985, told Tameny's killer he was deprived of growing up with a mother.


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