As expected, William Leo McDougall received no prison time at sentencing today after pleading guilty in the same Orange County Superior Court in August to murdering Manh Ban Nguyen. Well, technically, the record will show McDougall got 16 years in prison, but Judge Thomas Goethals suspended the sentence, as expected by prosecutors and even the victim's family. That's due to the frailty of the 83-year-old killer who repeatedly beat his nursing home roommate in the head to stop the 94-year-old's Vietnamese singing--that was apparently all in McDougall's head.
William Leo McDougall, 83, Convicted of Killing Manh Ban Nguyen, 94, over Vietnamese Singing
William Leo McDougall, 81-Year-Old Accused of Murdering 94-Year-Old Rehab Roommate, Due in Court
Manh Ban Nguyen, 2010 OC Homicide No. 46: 94-Year-Old Allegedly Beaten to Death by 81-Year-Old Roommate in Nursing Home
As it turns out, Nguyen, who like McDougall was recovering at Palm Terrace Healthcare Center in Laguna Woods from hip surgery on Oct. 1, 2010, could barely speak. But in the bed next to Nguyen's, McDougall grew angry that loud Vietnamese singing was disturbing his wife sleeping next to him.
He grabbed a wooden rod in the closet and beat Nguyen repeatedly. McDougall had to be restrained by staff members. Nguyen died shortly thereafter at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center.
As it turns out, McDougall's wife was not even there that night.
McDougall pleaded guilty Aug. 17 to one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon, and he was sentenced today to remain on probation the rest of his years. Given "the nature of the crime, the impact to and wishes of the victim's family, and the defendant's lack of criminal record, advanced age, and medical condition," the normally hardline Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) was fine with that sentence.
Nguyen's wife of 58 years and children viewed videotape of McDougall making his confession to authorities. The family submitted a letter to OCDA that stated, in part:
We got to hear what actually happened to our father...and how he was killed (and most importantly, hearing directly from the person who did it and admitted it). We fully understand nothing can be done now that will bring our father back to us. This is a real tragedy in which all parties involved have suffered tremendous losses and will continue to suffer for years to come. It is indeed a lose-lose situation for all.
Nguyen's family received a letter from McDougall's wife that read, in part:
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Our entire family is devastated by what Bill did, which we cannot explain, and nothing could ever justify Bill's conduct. I can only say that his actions must have been the product of illness . . . his surgery, old age, or a combination of factors unknown to me. I realize what an unbelievable nightmare this has caused the Nguyen family and the McDougall family. . . . I offer my sincere condolences on behalf of the entire family and ask for forgiveness for Bill, even in spite of the terrible pain he has caused, only because the "real" man I have known for over 58 years is not the one have done this horrible deed.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh referenced the "real man" who died that night in his Sentencing Brief submitted to the court, which says in part:
Mr. Nguyen was an honorable 94-year-old man who was very much loved and respected by everybody who knew him, especially his family. . . . Doing the right thing is not always easy. This is most certainly true in this case. As a prosecutor, it is much easier to argue that a defendant convicted of murdering an innocent victim should be sentenced to spend the rest of his or her life in prison. In the vast majority of murder cases, that would be the right and just thing to do. Not in this case. The People's objective is not to do what's easy; rather, it is to do what's right, fair, and just.
The People's recommendation [for lifetime probation] in this case is in no way, shape, or form a reflection solely of the value of the life of Mr. Nguyen. If that was the case and the People's recommendation was to be made solely based on the value of the life of Mr. Nguyen or on the harm that was inflicted upon him and his family, the People's recommendation would have been a sentence of life in prison. However, as the law dictates, the People's recommendation is based on the totality of all the circumstances relating to the specific facts of the crime, the victim, and the defendant. This is a tragic case and it has been so since day one.