SANTA ANA, Calif. – A prison parolee has been convicted of murder for stabbing and slashing a couple and their 6-year-old son over an $80,000 debt and leaving the family's baby girl unharmed next to her mother's body for two days.
Quang Van Quan of Houston bowed his head as he was convicted Wednesday of three counts of murder. The 39-year-old faces life in state prison without possibility of parole when he is sentenced Dec. 17.
Prosecutors said Quan used a ruse to enter the Garden Grove home of Phuong "Sonny" Le on May 27, 2006. He and at least one unknown accomplice hog-tied Le and his wife, Ngoc (pronounced NAHK) Lam, 25, in separate bedrooms and killed them along with their son.
Prosecutors said the murders were so brutal that they amounted to torture, although Quan was not charged with that crime.
The adults had their ankles and wrists bound together behind their backs with electrical cords and speaker wire.
Le, 30, was stabbed 16 times in the head and neck and his skull was fractured.
Lam had a baby's bib stuffed in her mouth, which was taped shut. Her throat was slashed.
Her 6-year-old son from a previous relationship, Tommy Lam, was found stabbed five times in the head in his bed in Spiderman pajamas. There was blood spatter on the wall and ceiling.
The couple's 11-month-old daughter, Kaitlyn, was left alive on the floor in the bedroom where her mother's body lay on the bed. Investigators found the child alive but dirty and dehydrated two days later.
In the home, investigators found an IOU from Le to Quan for $80,000, prosecutors said.
Quan was arrested in Houston in July 2006.
Le, 30, and Quan became friends in the 1990s while serving time for separate robberies in a Central California prison, authorities said.
Prosecutors told jurors that Le was a paranoid methamphetamine dealer who kept a gun under his mattress and had surveillance cameras set up all around the house that he monitored from a device in his pocket.
"He borrowed money from the wrong people and he didn't pay it back. He was fearful for his life," prosecutor Scott Simmons told jurors during the trial.
But Quan used a ruse to get into the home by calling and saying he needed a place to stay that night, prosecutors said.
Investigators looking at Quan's cell phone records found that he called Le 12 times the evening of the murders — the last six times from near the home — and left Le an urgent voicemail.
"The kid has a problem," Quan said in Vietnamese. "We need a place. We need a place tonight. Alright?"
At his trial, Quan's defense attorney Sheryl Beasley argued that her client had nothing to do with the killings.
"He had no idea what was going to happen that night. The people inside that house were his best friend and his best friend's family," she told jurors.
Quan told investigators that he had arranged a loan from a high-ranking organized crime figure and went with the man to Le's house to discuss repayment.
Quan claimed that he saw the man he called "Peter" pull a gun and tie up Le but was ordered from the home before the murders. Authorities say Quan identified a photo of "Peter" but it turned out to be a parolee with a location-tracking ankle bracelet who was home the night of the killings.