Chi Ngoc Bui won big the night of Sept. 2 at the Hawaiian Gardens Casino next to the 605 freeway.
Little did the 55-year-old Westminster resident know that he was being watched, later followed or that he'd take his last breaths that early the next morning.
After winning $10,000 at the casino, Bui left the casino in a 2002 Honda Civic with his longtime friend Kim Nguyen early Sept. 3.
Police believe someone inside the casino was watching Bui cash out around 4 a.m. before alerting a couple waiting outside to Bui.
Bui was driving Nguyen to her Santa Ana home around 5:30 a.m. when they were cut off at the curb in front of her residence in the 100 block of South Andres Place by a gold 2001 Grand Prix.
A man jumped out of the passenger side of the Grand Prix, rushed over to Bui, whipped out a knife and demanded he hand over his winnings. Bui tried to make a run for it, but was knocked to the ground.
He fought with his assailant, who never used the knife. The attacker then jumped back into the passenger seat of the Grand Prix before the driver hit the gas and ran over Bui's head, killing him instantly.
The couple in the Grand Prix then fled the scene.
Nguyen, who was not hurt, got out of the Honda and screamed for help. Police arrived to find her over Bui, the attacker's knife still next to him.Nguyen gave officers a partial description of the robber who got out of the Grand Prix but she could not describe its driver because of the tinted windows. Money was found in the street.
Through citizen tips, subsequent investigation and help from the casino, Santa Ana Police were able to identify Tad Allen Carroll, a 41-year-old transient, and Barbara Ann Hamel, 47, of Long Beach, as the pair in the Grand Am.
They were arrested for murder by Santa Ana detectives assisted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Force and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Fugitive Apprehension Team.
The LASD is reportedly investigating Ross and Carroll, who has a long criminal history, for the robbery of another big winner at the same casino in June. (Details on that case are found in the statement from the Orange County District Attorney's Office on the next page.)
The OCDA identifiedMichael William Ross
, 26, of Long Beach, as the man inside the casino who used his cell phone to call Carroll and Hamel about big-winner Bui. An arrest warrant was issued for Ross after the couple's arrest and he managed to elude authorities until this past weekend.
Carroll, Hamel and Ross are all charged with one felony count each of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery, second degree robbery, and attempted second degree robbery. Ross and Carroll, who are being held without bail, are also each charged with one felony count of second degree robbery.
If convicted, each could get life in state prison without the possibility of parole.
UPDATE: Ross was arrested Saturday morning in Mohave Valley, Ariz., after leading U.S. Marshals on a short foot chase. Also arrested was his girlfriend Danielle Strawn, who was wanted by authorities. A search of their hideout produced meth and marijuana, according to Santa Ana Police. Carroll, Hamel and Ross are due to appear in court on Oct. 15.
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The Orange County District Attorney's Office statement on the charges follow on the next page.
September 10, 2010
DISTRICT ATTORNEY FILES CHARGES AGAINST THREE FOR SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES MURDER FOR FINANCIAL GAIN OF 55-YEAR-OLD MAN AFTER FOLLOWING VICTIM HOME FROM HAWAIIAN GARDENS CASINO
*An arrest warrant has been issued for one of the defendants
SANTA ANA - The Orange County District Attorney filed charges today against two men and a woman for the special circumstances murder for financial gain of a 55-year-old man after following the victim home from Hawaiian Gardens Casino to rob him of $10,000 in gambling winnings. Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) coordinated the investigation of this case with assistance from the Hawaiian Gardens Casino. Tad Allen Carroll, 41, formerly of Buena Park, Barbara Ann Hamel, 47, and Michael William Ross, 26, both of Long Beach, are all charged with one felony count each of special circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery, second degree robbery, and attempted second degree robbery. Ross and Carroll are each additionally charged with one felony count of second degree robbery. If convicted, each defendant faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. The People will be requesting that Carroll and Hamel be held without bail at their arraignment in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The date and time are to be determined early next week. A media advisory will be issued with that information upon its availability. An arrest warrant has been issued for Ross.
Circumstances of the Los Angeles Robbery
In the early morning hours of June 18, 2010, Ross is accused of entering the Hawaiian Gardens Casino (Casino) in Los Angeles and surveying winning gamblers with the intention of robbing them after they left the Casino with co-defendant Carroll. Ross is accused of watching Ki Lee closely as he was gambling. Lee later visited the Casino's cashier window to cash in his chips and left the Casino with approximately $5,000 in cash. Ross is accused of contacting and informing Carroll of Lee's winnings. Carroll is accused of following the victim to his home. Upon arriving at the victim's home, Carroll is accused of approaching Lee with what appeared to be a gun and robbing him. The defendant is accused of fleeing the scene. Lee reported the incident to the LASD.
Circumstances of the Orange County Murder
In the early morning on Sept. 3, 2010, Ross is accused of entering the Casino and surveying winning gamblers with the intention of robbing them after they left the Casino. Co-defendants Carroll and Hamel are accused of waiting in a Pontiac Grand Prix outside the Casino with the intention of robbing winning gamblers that Ross was watching. Ross is accused of closely watching 55-year-old Chi Bui who had been winning while gambling with his friend Kim Nguyen. At approximately 4:00 a.m., Bui went to the Casino's cashier window, cashed in his chip winnings having over $10,000 in cash, and left the Casino with Nguyen. Ross is accused of following the victims out of the Casino and making a phone call to Carroll and Hamel.
Carroll and Hamel are accused of driving and following Bui, who was driving Nguyen to her Santa Ana home. Carroll and Hamel are accused of blocking-in Bui's car after he stopped alongside the curb in front of Nguyen's home. Carroll is accused of getting out of the vehicle, approaching the victims, and pointing a knife at them to steal their winnings. He is accused of knocking Bui to the ground and getting back into the Grand Prix. Hamel is accused of driving over Bui's head, killing him instantly, and then fleeing the scene with Carroll. Nguyen called 911.
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The SAPD were able to link the three defendants to the two crimes with the assistance of the Hawaiian Gardens Casino, LASD, California Department of Corrections, Parole Fugitive Apprehension Team, and United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force.
Carroll was arrested yesterday, Sept. 8, 2010, in Anaheim. Hamel was apprehended in Long Beach later that day. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Ross.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Supervising Homicide District Attorney Investigator Helen Moreno at (714) 347-8492 or the Santa Ana Police Department at (714) 245-8390.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.