Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS. : AT THE SCENE : 2 Youths Held in Slaying of Vietnamese Woman
A curtain of silence surrounding Orange County’s Vietnamese community parted slightly when some of its members gave police crucial information leading to the arrest of two suspects in the brutal slaying of a Vietnamese mother of 14 as she prayed at her bedside.
Two Santa Ana youths, ages 12 and 13, remained in custody in Orange County Juvenile Hall pending trial on June 19.
Law enforcement authorities say the boys are suspected of being “accessories” in the May 6 robbery and shooting of Huyen Thi Hoang, 46, when a band of masked Vietnamese youths stormed into the family’s Santa Ana home.
Santa Ana police investigators were seeking warrants for the arrest of three additional suspects still at large, who are believed to be more culpable in the latest in a wave of violent residential robberies plaguing Southeast Asian communities across the nation.
Hoang, who fled her war-torn country in a handmade boat a decade ago, had retired as usual to a rear bedroom on the evening of May 6 for her nightly prayer ritual. Outside in the driveway, her 19-year-old daughter, Kim Huong Ngo, was accosted by a masked man, who, with four others, hustled her to the door and shoved their way inside.
Four of the masked men--identified by the family as Vietnamese--held Kim, her father and 11 of her brothers and sisters at gunpoint, demanding money. A fifth began searching the house, eventually entering the room where Hoang was praying.
Kim said she heard her mother scream, “Oh, my God,” followed by a gunshot. The masked marauders fled from the house, leaving behind few clues. Hoang died at the scene.
Stymied for leads, investigators appealed to the traditionally close-mouthed and fearful Southeast Asian refugee community for help in tracing the murderers. Police said the vicious slaying prompted some to work with law enforcement officials and on their own to find the suspects.
“Without the cooperation of the Vietnamese people of Orange County, we wouldn’t have been able to get the information we got,” Santa Ana Police Sgt. Collie Provence said.
The unprecedented level of cooperation in getting a lead in the Hoang murder was seen as a sign of things to come for local police agencies hampered by the community’s mistrust and fear when investigating similar crimes.
“We see it as a turning point in them getting to know us better and trusting us,” Provence said.