Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee who raised her daughters in the United States, died of blunt force injuries, the Clark County Coroner’s Office told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Police say Whipple used a stolen rental car to hit Nguyen and drive away. Nguyen’s death was caught on video and ruled a homicide.
A Jan. 4 warrant shows Whipple was wanted on murder, robbery and burglary charges. It was not clear Saturday morning whether she had an attorney.
Police say the incident unfolded after Whipple sat for a $35 manicure at Nguyen’s salon, Crystal Nails and Spa. Nguyen co-managed the business with her longtime partner, Sonny Chung. Whipple tried to pay with a credit card, Chung told the Review-Journal, but the card was declined multiple times.
Whipple told Nguyen she would retrieve money from her car, Chung said. The couple followed the woman outside, approached the car and tried to get Whipple’s attention.
“My wife ran out and tried to stop her, and then [Whipple] rolled forward,” Chung told the Review-Journal.
Police said Whipple hit Nguyen and dragged her before fleeing the store parking lot. Witnesses told Fox 5 Vegas that 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 members to help defray funeral costs describes Nguyen as an “extremely hard working” woman and “dutiful mother who always put her children first.” Nguyen often worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, the page says, 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 members “would not have to work as hard as she did.”
Family members told Fox 5 Vegas that Nguyen had lived 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.
Las Vegas Police Lt. Ray Spencer told the newspaper that 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.
Outside the salon, a makeshift memorial had been set up, according to the Review-Journal. One of Nguyen’s granddaughters had written a message on notebook paper covered with hearts: “We Love You Grandma.”
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.”