PHOENIX, AZ (November 9, 2012) – The Honorable Susan Pineda today sentenced Qui Tu Truong (D.O.B. 11/10/83) to 36 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for a brutal attack that has prompted a call for stricter sentences for violent crimes that cause serious or life-altering injuries. Under Arizona’s sentencing statutes for dangerous felony offenses, Truong will be eligible for release after serving 85% of his sentence with credit for time served.
“Although this defendant received the maximum allowable sentence for the crimes he was convicted of, it pales in comparison to the unthinkable physical suffering and emotional anguish he caused two innocent victims,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This case highlights a troubling disconnect between the degree of harm caused and the punishment that can be imposed. I look forward to reviewing this issue with legislators in the upcoming legislative session,” he added.
On the afternoon of March 12, 2011 Yen Ha, age 54, and her surrogate nephew, 19 year-old Trong Nguyen, came home together to eat lunch on a scheduled break from work at Lam’s Seafood Market. As they were preparing their meal, Qui Tu Truong, a former co-worker, entered the small residence uninvited and proceeded to viscously attack both of them with a meat cleaver. As Trong Nguyen lay bleeding on the floor with a serious head wound, he saw Truong repeatedly hacking Yen Ha’s head and body with the meat cleaver. Nguyen was able to stand up and run to the front door, prompting the defendant to chase after him. Despite sustaining additional injuries to his arms and hands as Truong continued to strike him with the meat cleaver, Nguyen escaped and began screaming for help.
Truong dropped the bloody meat cleaver and fled the scene in his parents’ minivan. Several neighbors and bystanders quickly entered Yen Ha’s apartment and tended to her until paramedics arrived at the scene. Truong was apprehended a few hours later, after cleaning himself up, disposing his bloody clothes and attempting to flee from arresting officers. Investigators later learned that he had deliberately planned the attack after a long running work-related dispute with Yen Ha.
Less than two weeks after the attack, a Maricopa County Grand Jury indicted Truong on one count of attempted first degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault and one count of burglary. On October 2, 2012, Qui Tu Trong pled guilty to one count of attempted murder and one count of aggravated assault and agreed to serve the maximum prison term allowable under the law: 21 years for the attempted murder plus 15 years for the aggravated assault. Today, Yen Ha is in a permanent vegetative state as a result of severe head trauma, which required portions of her brain to be removed. Her prognosis for recovery is very poor. Trong Nguyen continues to suffer from serious injuries caused by approximately eight hatchet wounds to his head, arms and hands.
“While modern medical science allowed these victims to survive this savage assault, they remain permanently disabled with a greatly diminished quality of life. Yet their assailant will be eligible for release in less than 30 years because Arizona law currently makes no distinction between attempted murder or aggravated assault victims who suffer little to no actual physical harm and those who sustain serious or life-altering injuries,” County Attorney Montgomery said. “To address the shortcoming in our sentencing statutes, my office will work with the legislature to enact the Yen Enhancement, a proposed reform which will give judges the capability to hold these types of defendants justly accountable for the extreme harm they cause.”
Under the proposed Yen Enhancement, courts will have the discretionary authority to increase a defendant’s sentence by up to ten years and/or preclude the possibility of early release for all class 2 and class 3 dangerous felony offenses involving serious physical harm to victims. The measure is similar to statutory provisions that mandate stricter sentences for aggravated assaults on police officers or felony offenses committed to promote criminal street gangs.