Nguyen died of blunt force injuries, the Clark County coroner’s office told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Her death was ruled a homicide.
The incident unfolded Saturday afternoon, after the suspect sat for a $35 manicure at Nguyen’s salon, Crystal Nails and Spa. Nguyen co-managed the business with her longtime partner, Sonny Chung. The female customer tried to pay with a credit card, Chung told the Review-Journal, but the card was declined multiple times.
The woman told Nguyen she would retrieve money from her car, Chung said. The couple followed the woman outside, approached the car and tried to get the driver’s attention.
“My wife ran out and tried to stop her, and then [the customer] rolled forward,” Chung told the Review-Journal.
Police said the driver hit Nguyen and dragged her before fleeing the store parking lot. Witnesses told Fox 5 Vegas the altercation was over within seconds.
“I tried to hold the car back, but I’m not Superman,” Chung told the Review-Journal. “She ran off for $35 and killed my wife — $35 to run my wife over.”
A GoFundMe page created by family to help defray funeral costs describes Nguyen as an “extremely hard working" woman and “dutiful mother who always put her children first.” Her job took her across the United States, the page said, and Nguyen often worked 12 hour days, seven days a week so she could pay for her daughters to attend college. Nguyen also helped financially support her mother, siblings and grandchildren.
“Allowing them to have a greater opportunity in life, she worked endlessly,” the GoFundMe description says. Nguyen would skip meals so her family “would not have to work as hard as she did.”
Family told Fox 5 Vegas Nguyen had lived around the country, in Florida, California, Michigan and Arizona, before settling in Las Vegas two years ago. She had been in a relationship with Chung for nearly 13 years, he told the Review-Journal. Nguyen had three daughters — all in their 20s — and two young grandchildren, Chung said. They live in California but were in town for the holidays.
Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Ray Spencer told the newspaper the rental car, a black Chevrolet Camaro, was reported stolen about three weeks ago. Hours after the salon incident, authorities found the unoccupied vehicle at a nearby apartment complex.
“We do not believe the person who originally rented the car is the suspect,” Spencer told the Review-Journal.
Outside the salon, a makeshift memorial had been set up, according to the newspaper. One of Nguyen’s granddaughters had written a message on notebook paper covered with hearts: “We Love You Grandma.”
And on the door of the salon that is usually open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, a sign read: “Sorry, we will be closed until further notice. Thank you and Happy New Years.”
Police are still investigating Nguyen’s death and said Wednesday morning there was no additional information on the case.