Little Saigon's wild Thanh Van Quang arrived at Wasco State Prison on Wednesday and, after an evaluation, corrections officials eventually will bus him to a more permanent home at a different California penitentiary, where he'll reside while serving a tough sentence.
You may remember my colleague Matt Coker reported earlier this month on Quang's sentencing hearing for committing one of Orange County's more bizarre crimes.
In Nov. 2012, he used a lighter to ignite a one-gallon container of gasoline inside Room 25 at the Pueblo Motel on Harbor Boulevard. The explosion blew him out of the door, risked the lives of the other motel occupants and caused more than $177,500 in damage. He wore embarrassing evidence of his stunt. Flames burned a portion of his hair and skin on his upper back.
Quang's defense lawyer claimed his client momentarily lost his mind and intended to burn clothes he'd placed outside of the second-floor motel room shortly before the blast, but accidentally lit the gas inside the room.
A prosecutor argued the defendant committed arson as a route to revenge against the motel manager, who'd intervened earlier in a shouting match Quang had with his guests.
Whatever the truth regarding motive, a superior court judge handed a convicted Quang a term of 33 years to life.
But before we close the book on this character it's only fitting to acknowledge all of his contributions to society.
Quang's motel incident wasn't his first contact with law enforcement or use of fire to make a criminally deprived point.
In 1996, the then-21-year-old and a 22-year-old pal, Son Hong Nguyen, decided to expand their counterfeiting/identity theft operation to conduct a violent home invasion robbery against a fellow Vietnamese American man in Lake Forest.
The methamphetamine user might have evaded detection if he hadn't left that latex glove with his fingerprints at the crime scene . . . d'oh!
Three weeks later forensic scientists hadn't yet identified him and so, he, Nguyen and another man, Michael Quy Vu, went drinking at a bar one evening.
(You know this isn't going to end well.)
At some point after a night of partying, Vu–the 23-year-old driver–got into a drunken, nasty argument with Quang and Nguyen inside their moving vehicle.
Vu fired a shot that that missed human flesh but crashed a passenger side window.
Nguyen's returning shot–yes, one car, two handguns and three idiots–slammed into the right side of Vu's skull and instantly killed him.
A brilliant idea then entered Quang's mind: Let's drive the vehicle with the corpse to a gas station, buy a container of fuel, drive to a Seal Beach park, torch the body and bury it.
That crime spree landed him in Pelican Bay State Prison for 12 years.
In both the 2012 motel arson and the 1996 corpse-burning incidents, Quang apparently couldn't figure out police detectives would review gas station surveillance cameras to discover who bought fuel with a container at the time of the crimes.
Upshot: Subtracting his stint in prison, this genius managed to collect five felony strikes in the only three years he spent in freedom as an adult.
(OCWeekly.com's "Citizen of the Week!" periodically highlights the depths of human depravity in Orange County, California.)