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Santa Ana Jury Convicts Man of Murdering His Girlfriend

October 08, 1998|DANIEL YI

A jury deliberated for 40 minutes before returning a guilty verdict Wednesday against a Fountain Valley man accused of killing his girlfriend and stuffing the body in the trunk of her sister's car.

Phong Thanh "Tony" Nguyen, 23, was convicted of first-degree murder and faces a possible sentence of 25 years to life when he is sentenced Nov. 6 in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

Nguyen was arrested a year ago on unrelated charges in Toronto, where he had fled, authorities said. He was extradited to Orange County shortly afterward.

Police said Nguyen killed his girlfriend, Kristie Nguyen, out of jealousy. Two weeks after the woman disappeared in May 1997, her badly decomposed body was found in the trunk of her sister's Honda Civic, which had been left parked on Electric Avenue in Seal Beach. She had been shot.

"The evidence was overwhelming," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Claudia Silbar, who presented witnesses who testified that Nguyen was very possessive and controlling of his girlfriend.

Nguyen's defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jim Appel, could not be reached for comment.

Nguyen testified during his trial that he had met with Kristie Nguyen the night of the murder, but that he left her and departed on a business trip to Canada. He denied he was fleeing.

But Silbar said Nguyen showed all the signs of someone who was trying to cover his tracks. He had purchased only a one-way ticket using a false name, and while in Canada he covered a tattoo bearing his girlfriend's name.

"The jury had no problem finding him guilty," Silbar said, noting the short deliberation time.

The nearly three-week trial ended Tuesday afternoon. The jury returned with a verdict Wednesday morning.

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