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2 Sentenced in Fatal Shooting of UCI Student

June 13, 1998|THAO HUA

Two of three men convicted of assisting the murder of a UC Irvine student must serve sentences of more than 20 years to life in prison, an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered Friday.

Judge Francisco P. Briseno handed Phat Doan, 26, of Westminster a sentence of 21 1/2 years to life and Vinh Ta, 22, of Santa Ana a sentence of 20 1/2 years to life. Doan received an additional year for using a gun in the crime. A third man, Hau Ha, 23, Hau Ha, is scheduled for sentencing Friday.

A jury earlier found all three men guilty of second-degree murder in the 1994 slaying of Robert Sapinoso, a 19-year-old engineering student who had followed a gray van driven by Ta in order to write down its license plate number. Sapinoso, of Westminster, had suspected that the group was involved in vandalism.

Huyn Nguyen, who is fighting extradition in Canada, allegedly exited the van and opened fire on Sapinoso, killing the student.

In an emotional plea to the court Friday, Sapinoso's father said the murder devastated his family.

"He was my only child," said Danilo Sapinoso, 52, of Westminster. "All of a sudden, his life was taken away by these people."

Robert Sapinoso's best friend, Anthony Mueggler, also asked the court to impose a lengthy sentence due to the senseless violence of the crime. Mueggler, 24, recalled the pain the Sapinoso family endured. "They got what every parent dreads the most," Mueggler said. "All over nothing."

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