Boy, 14, Named in Woman's Murder

Times Staff Writer

Police Wednesday said 14-year-old Sau Van Le of Garden Grove shot and killed a Vietnamese woman last month as she prayed at her bed during a failed robbery attempt and asked for help in finding him.

Five young Vietnamese charged into the woman's home May 5 intending to loot it, but Le actually killed the woman, police said.

Santa Ana police also announced the arrests of two other suspects, 17 and 20 years old, in the murder of Huyen Thi Hoang, 46, mother of 14. Two other juveniles were arrested May 28.

Although police are prohibited from releasing the names of juvenile suspects, Santa Ana investigators said they received permission from the Orange County Juvenile Court to identify Le because of the severity of the alleged crime and because they need the public's help in finding him.

An arrest warrant has been issued by the court for Le, charging him with murder, residential armed robbery, and armed robbery and burglary, police said. They released a picture of him at a press conference.

Officers said Le may still be in Orange County. They encouraged the Vietnamese community to continue to try to find him and said the arrests of the other suspects would have been impossible without the assistance of Vietnamese.

Two Vietnamese boys, 12 and 14, who are believed to have participated in the attack, were arrested May 28 at a Garden Grove home. Their trials had been set for today, a court official said, but were postponed until July 21 at the request of their attorneys.

All four suspects now in custody and awaiting trial have been charged with murder, residential robbery and burglary in connection with the case, police said.

Capt. Paul Walters said the 17-year-old suspect is a transient with no address. He was arrested June 6 at a Vietnamese shopping center in Santa Ana.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Brent F. Romney, who is prosecuting the murder case, said that none of the suspects were arrested on warrants but that criminal complaints were later filed charging them with the slaying.

At a July 3 hearing, Romney said, he will ask that the 17-year-old be tried as an adult.

Tien Van Nguyen, 20, offered no resistance when he was arrested June 12 as he left his Garden Grove residence, authorities said. They said Nguyen was charged the next day with murder, robbery and burglary. His court arraignment is set for June 27.

Walters said police did not announce the most recent arrests before Wednesday because they hoped to find Le on their own.

Confronted Daughter

On May 5, five masked Vietnamese males riding in two vehicles arrived at Hoang's home at about 10:15 p.m. Walters said. In the driveway, they confronted Hoang's daughter Kim Huong Ngo, 19, as she returned from night classes at Orange Coast College. They then charged into the house.

Four of Hoang's children and her husband, Trung Ngo, 59, were forced to sit on a couch in the living room under the guard of two suspects, while the three other intruders began ransacking the house. One had a loaded small-caliber gun, police said. Walters said at least eight other family members would later be found in other parts of the house, including two small boys hiding in a bathroom.

It was Hoang's nightly ritual to kneel at her bedside and pray, her children said, and it was there that the intruder with a gun found her.

"I heard her scream, 'Oh my God,' and then I heard the gunshot," Kim said.

Hoang was wounded once in the upper body and died at the scene.

Investigators and Hoang's relatives have theorized that the gunman fired either because he was surprised to find the praying woman or because he panicked when the shirt collar he had pulled over his chin slipped down.

Suspects Took Nothing

Less than five minutes after charging into the home, the five intruders fled. The family had no more than $100 in the home, police said, and the suspects took nothing.

"I just got home from school and heard the news," said Trang Thu Ngo, Hoang's 16-year-old daughter. "I'm glad they got them, and I'm sure they'll get the other (suspect), too. Just because of (the shooting), the American Vietnamese succeeded in finding this many so I think they'll help find that other one too."

The Santa Ana Valley High School student said she was in the living room when the shooting occurred and did not get a good look at the intruders' faces behind the masks. She said she did not recognize the pictures police released of Le and Nguyen.

Anyone with information about Le was asked to contact Santa Ana police investigators Ferrell Buckels and Irma Vasquez at (714) 834-4234 during working hours or other officers at (714) 834-4211 at night or on weekends.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World