Life in prison without parole for killer of 12-year-old Jessica Nguyen


Jessica Nguyen, 12, was killed in the basement of her Gaithersburg home in May 2011. (Courtesy State’s Attorney’s Office, MoCo. )
December 3, 2012

David R. Hang sat quietly in his blue-and-white-striped polo shirt as Jessica Nguyen’s sobbing mother described the daily pain of seeing other children at the bus stop on her way to work.

“I have to eat with my tears and sleep with my tears,” said Khen Kim Vu.

Hang was silent as Jessica’s big sister recounted her discovery of Jessica’s 12-year-old “lifeless, bloody body” in the basement of their Gaithersburg home in May 2011, and then as Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Chaikin described a summer jailhouse recording in which Hang blamed Jessica’s mother for putting him behind bars with lies.

Hang did not speak in court in August, when he was convicted of Jessica’s murder. In court Monday for his sentencing, he arranged a microphone and began a defiant oration. “Now I have the opportunity to say my side of the story,” Hang said.

Hang, who had been paid to marry the girl’s mother in a sham arrangement, voiced sympathy for the family’s loss — and then recounted the defense rejected by a jury this summer, in which he claimed he was elsewhere when Jessica was killed.

“I am a victim in this case too,” Hang said. “I will fight this injustice and wrongful conviction.” To the prosecutors and detectives who put him away, he said: “You shall be punished by God. The bad guys always win first, and the good guys always win later. I’m innocent.”

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Sharon V. Burrell noted the jury’s guilty verdict and sentenced Hang to life without parole.

Monday’s hearing was wrenching. The image of finding her sister’s body, Belinda Nguyen told Burrell, “will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. No one will understand how much it hurts.”

Chaikin quoted from a transcript of the jailhouse recording, in which Hang said of Jessica’s mother: “Now she is punished by her daughter’s death. It serves her right!”

“What kind of person could slaughter an innocent 12-year-old” and then say such a thing, Chaikin asked.

Public defender Brian Shefferman said he would follow through with Hang’s request to appeal his conviction.

After the verdict, Jessica’s family was too distraught to speak. State’s Attorney John McCarthy said he was personally offended by Hang’s comments.

“Mr. Hang is a child killer,” McCarthy said.

Prosecutors said Hang attacked Jessica after becoming angry and frustrated with the girl’s mother and her adult relatives. Hang, a former Ride On bus driver, had fallen in love with another woman who was ill and needed his health insurance, and he had wanted out of the marriage faster than Vu did, according to prosecutors.

“This case was about anger, frustration and revenge,”Chaikin said.

Belinda Nguyen said her family has been full of “tears, anger, bickering and blame.”

“Each of us blames ourself for what happened,” she said. “Our family, and our hearts, will never be whole again.”

Mike Laris came to Post by way of Los Angeles and Beijing. He’s written about the world’s greatest holstein bull, earth’s biggest pork producer, home builders, the homeless, steel workers and Italian tumors.
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