The Gaithersburg man charged with killing his stepdaughter stabbed and cut her more than 40 times and had married her mother in “an immigration sham type of marriage,” Montgomery County prosecutors said today at his bond review.
David Rich Hang, 42, of the 17100 block of Queen Victoria Ct., was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with first-degree murder in the death of 12-year-old Jessica Nguyen. Hang’s prolonged divorce with Nguyen’s mother helped fuel his anger in the months leading up to the girl’s May 31 slaying, prosecutors said.
“He felt the family was not living up to their responsibility,” Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Chaikin said during Hang’s bond review in Montgomery County District Court in Rockville.
Hang lived in at least four other states before moving to Maryland, had changed his name and kept multiple bank accounts, Chaikin said. Court records show that Hang had married Nguyen’s mother in June 2006, one month after moving to Maryland.
It was “an immigration sham type of marriage,” Chaikin said.
“The suspect was paid to marry her so that she could become an American citizen,” Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said in an interview.
Hang has no prior convictions, according to his public defender.
Judge Patricia A. Mitchell gave Hang the opportunity to argue for his release on bond.
Speaking through closed circuit TV from the Montgomery County Detention Center, Hang explained that he took on an American-sounding name, “so it would be easy for everyone to know who I am,” he said in an emotional statement. He had moved from state to state because of poor economic conditions before becoming a bus driver for RideOn in January 2007.
“It was the best job he ever had,” he said.
Mitchell ordered that Hang continue to be held without bond and set a preliminary hearing for Nov. 10.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy said that he does not believe the case against Hang meets Maryland’s threshold for the death penalty.
The case against Hang centers around boot prints and an empty knife sheath found in the basement of the Nguyen home on Raven Avenue in the Hidden Creek neighborhood in Gaithersburg. Statements made today by police and prosecutors, combined with court documents, lay out the following timeline starting on May 31:
Jessica Nguyen and her sister Belinda got home from Gaithersburg Middle School at around 3 p.m. and went to their upstairs bedroom, where Jessica’s sister fell asleep.
Three hours later, their aunt woke Belinda up, asking where Jessica was. Belinda found Jessica’s bloody body in the basement, amid boxes that had been packed for the family’s move to a new home the following day.
Police arrived about an hour later. They found a sheath “without a matching sword,” footprints around Jessica’s body and no signs of forced entry into the home.
“We started looking at anyone and everyone that had access to that house,” Manger said. "... We were keeping the options wide open. There was nothing that pointed us immediately to anybody. “
Blood samples taken from the sheath showed a “mixed profile” of DNA that “can only be used for elimination purposes,” according to charging documents.
Hang had lived with the Nguyen family in late 2005 and early 2006. He and Jessica’s mother were married in June 2006, but he moved out in February 2007. While there no reports of domestic violence, it “was certainly not a good relationship,” Manger said.
Hang filed for an uncontested divorce from Nguyen's mother in October 2010. The divorce dragged out for months, culminating in court proceedings in the days before Nguyen's murder and a week after, at which point the case could not be resolved because of “continuing involvement” with immigration officials, court records show.
The morning of Jessica’s death, Hang drove his morning shift for RideOn and called in sick for his evening shift. Cell phone records show that he was in the Montgomery Village/Gaithersburg area from 11:00 a.m. until shortly after 4 p.m.
Detectives interviewed Hang the day after Jessica Nguyen’s death. Hang told detectives that he had met with a realtor at Lakeforest mall, then spent the rest of the afternoon with his other wife, with whom he had lived for several years. He claimed he took her to a doctor’s appointment in Virginia. Employees at the doctor’s office told detectives that they had seen the woman, but not Hang.
In that June 1 interview, “his right hand was injured and extremely swollen,” Det. Nicholas Picerno wrote in the charging documents. Hang told detectives that he hurt his hand building furniture.
Investigators determined that the footprints had been made by a discontinued brand of boots—which RideOn previously gave its drivers—consistent with men’s size 8 or women’s size 10. In a later interview, Hang acknowledged wearing a size 8 shoe, but said he did not wear his county-issued boots “because they are not comfortable.” When shown a photo of the sheath, Hang said he had never seen it before.
Analysis of the sheath’s blood samples showed that Hang’s DNA was “the major contributor,” according to the charging documents.
“At that point, we believed we had enough probable cause to make an arrest,” Manger said.