SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man charged with slaughtering three members of a California family, including a 6-year-old boy, nearly severed a woman's head then left her baby girl to starve only feet from the body, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Quang Van Quan dealt with an $80,000 financial dispute by committing the 2006 massacre at the home of an ex-prison buddy, Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons told jurors in his opening statement at the murder trial.
Quan, 39, was arrested in Houston in 2006 and charged with three counts of murder during a robbery and burglary. If convicted of murder with the special circumstances, he could face life in state prison without the possibility of parole.
His attorney was expected to present an opening statement later in the day.
Quan is accused of killing Phuong "Sonny" Le, 30; Ngoc Lam, 25; and her 6-year-old son Tommy Lam.
Prosecutors have said Quan and Le met in prison in the mid-1990s while serving time for separate home-invasion robberies.
Prosecutors contend Quan and one or more other unidentified accomplices fled after the killings with the family's cell phones and a laptop. Investigators discovered the bodies two days later, after a co-worker reported Lam had missed work at a casino in San Bernardino County where she was a card dealer.
They also found the couple's 11-month-old daughter, Katelyn, still alive at the foot of a bed, two feet from her mother.
The baby was so dehydrated that her lips were gray and cracked, and when she cried no tears came out.
"Two to three days this baby was in that bedroom with her dead mother," Simmons told jurors.
The mother had been hogtied at the ankles and wrists with speaker wire and electrical cords and had a baby bib stuffed in her mouth, which was covered in duct tape. Lam's throat was slit so deeply that her head was nearly severed, Simmons said.
The father was found hogtied in another room with pajamas and underwear tied around his head. He was stabbed several times in the head and neck.
The boy, clad in Spiderman pajamas, was found dead in another bedroom with blood spattered on the walls. He had been stabbed repeatedly in the head and back, Simmons said.
Investigators also found an IOU dated April 14, 2006, from Le to Quan, mentioning $80,000 for "potential business ventures."
Investigators discovered surveillance cameras throughout the house, hidden on top of furniture and in outside light fixtures. A wireless monitor was found in the father's pocket.
"He was worried, he borrowed money from the wrong people and he could not pay it back," Simmons said. "He was fearful for his life, paranoid. He would walk around the house with this wireless monitor on him so he could see if anyone was coming in the house from any angle."
However, Quan talked his way into Le's home, the prosecutor said.
Quan called Le 12 times on the night of the killings en route from the Los Angeles suburb of Rosemead to Garden Grove, Simmons said. Six of the calls were made near Le's home. In one voicemail, Quan asks Le to call him back.
"Call me back. The kid has a problem," the voicemail said. "We need a place. We need a place tonight. Alright?"
The distress call was simply a ruse to get inside the home, the prosecutor said.