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Utah woman ordered to stand trial for fatally stabbing boyfriend

Published May 28, 2014 4:59 pm

Courts • Thu Huong Thi Nguyen allegedly killed Thai Le on Labor Day.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the moments before a 41-year-old West Valley City woman stabbed the father of her child to death in the midst of a Labor Day barbecue, witnesses said, he challenged her to do it.

The couple had been fighting for hours. In a moment of apparent rage, witnesses testified Wednesday, the woman, Thu Huong Thi Nguyen, went into the kitchen and returned with a knife.

Her boyfriend, with whom Nguyen had a small child, egged her on.

"I'm not scared of you," Thai Le said. "Go ahead."

So, prosecutors said, she did.

Nguyen was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on charges of murder, obstruction of justice and domestic violence in the presence of a child. If convicted, the charges — a first-, second- and third-degree felony, respectively — could land her in prison for life.

During a Wednesday preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court, Nguyen listened to witness testimony through a Vietnamese translator. She wore deep-blue jail scrubs and sat in silence at the defense table flanked by her attorney.

She will return to court for arraignment June 9, at which point the woman will have a chance to enter a plea.

According to testimony, Le, 44, was seated on a couch in the living room, holding the couple's 4 1/2-month-old child when Nguyen attacked him Sept. 2, 2013.

She swung once and missed, testified friend and partygoer Duy Tran, leaving a slash in the sofa.

On the second try, Tran said, she cut Le deeply from behind.

The blade pierced Le's aorta, testified the medical examiner. Though he was conscious in the immediate aftermath of the attack, he eventually bled out.

A neighbor, Christine Sepulveda, who was outside the apartment near 1800 W. Parkway Blvd. (2495 South) in West Valley City — nicknamed "Little Saigon" for its many Vietnamese tenants — said she heard yelling and cursing from up above.

When she glanced up, she saw the defendant storm into the house and heard what sounded like a kitchen drawer slam. The clatter of utensils cut through the warm summer night.

"I saw the knife in her hand," testified Sepulveda. "It happened so fast. He dropped instantly. … Everybody seemed shocked. Nobody was saying anything."

Sepulveda called 911 in a panic, she said. But she couldn't communicate to the victim or his friends what she was told by the operator: Leave the man where he was, perform CPR, wait for help to arrive.

Already Nguyen and the couple's friends were moving the body. They held him from his arms and legs as they pulled him down the stairs, hoisted him into the back of a white van and drove him to Pioneer Valley Hospital.

By the time police arrived at the hospital, the victim had died.

Witness Long Chau, who had been friends with Le for 15 years, said Le was holding thebaby when he was stabbed, but soon after, a friend picked the child up, off the father's lap. Nguyen held her boyfriend up as she began to say, "The ambulance is too slow; let's take him to the hospital. Help me. I don't want him to die."

As more blood began to seep through Le's clothes, Chau said, Nguyen became more anxious.

The knife Nguyen allegedly used in the stabbing was later found in a kitchen drawer and appeared to have been washed, according to charging documents.

Witnesses described it as a steak knife — "the kind used to cut beef."

At least six individuals were in the home at the time of the stabbing.

The couple had been together for several years, witnesses said. They were hosting a Labor Day cookout and had been drinking beers with their guests all evening before the stabbing occurred, witnesses said.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae