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‘He could not stand to lose control of her’: Man killed wife with nail gun day before restraining order hearing

Lam Ngoc Tran (Harris County District Attorney's Office) and the home where he bludgeoned his wife to death with a nail gun (KPRC)

Lam Ngoc Tran (Harris County District Attorney’s Office) and the home where he bludgeoned his wife to death with a nail gun (KPRC)

A 65-year-old man in Texas will likely spend the remainder of his days behind bars after admitting to killing his wife, bludgeoning her with a nail gun in their home before using the tool to shoot himself in the face and wrist in a failed suicide.

Harris County District Court Judge Veronica M. Nelson on Thursday ordered Lam Ngoc Tran to serve 40 years in prison for the slaying of 49-year-old My Thai Dang, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

“This is a horrible murder, and it reinforces that the most dangerous time for a battered spouse is when they are trying to leave the relationship,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement following the sentencing hearing. “This woman was trying to get away from an abusive husband, and the only reason she is dead is because he could not stand to lose control of her.”

Tran pleaded guilty in May to one count of murder for killing his wife, who had filed for divorce about five months earlier.

According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Law&Crime, police responded on the night of Jan 10, 2022, to the Tran house after a man with “slurred speech” who was moaning in pain called 911 and requested medical assistance. First responders forced entry into the home, where they located Dang in her pajamas, lying on the floor in a pool of blood inside the master bedroom. She had suffered “major injuries to her face and head.” A loose nail nearby was covered with what appeared to be blood and human hair, police said.

Tran was found in the living room, about 20 feet from his wife. He was suffering from severe injuries to the face and body. A red pneumatic nail gun with a blue hose attached to a small air compressor was found nearby.

An autopsy determined that Dang’s injuries were caused by her being repeatedly struck by a heavy object with a distinctive pattern that matched the nail gun found at the scene.

Interviews with Tran’s son and Dang’s niece revealed that Dang had filed for divorce in August 2021 and that Tran had been formally served with divorce papers on Dec. 18, 2021. Dang’s niece told police that on the day the papers were served, Dang had called her while hiding in her closet “due to Mr. Tran being upset about being served.”

Dang also told her niece that Tran said he planned to “drag out the divorce process for as long as possible” because “she was not going to divorce him.”

Tran’s daughter told police that on the afternoon of Jan. 9, 2022, her father had sent her and her two siblings a text message saying “he was going somewhere, they wouldn’t be able to contact him, that if they needed anything to contact their uncle, and goodbye,” the affidavit states.

The two were scheduled to appear in court for a hearing regarding a show cause hearing for a restraining order Dang had sought against her husband.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.