Fugitive Gets 20 Years for 1997 Slaying

Camden Courier-Post - July 2, 2007

By Renee Winkler, Courier-Post Staff

A Vietnamese immigrant who was a fugitive for nine years was sentenced Friday to 20 years in state prison for killing another Vietnamese man who had attempted to act as a peacemaker.

Hieu Thach, 29, was arrested in August in Florida in connection with the murder of Nhut Thach, 47, who was not a relative.

Nhut Thach had worked as a butcher at the Littman Grocery Store in North Camden and was a respected presence in Camden's Vietnamese community. He and his family had provided support for other new immigrants after they arrived in South Jersey in 1987.

An investigation showed the defendant had warned the victim's son that he was coming to their house in the 3400 block of Westfield Avenue in East Camden on the night of March 24, 1997, to resolve an ongoing dispute.

He believed Thach's son Hung Thach had made telephone threats. The two men had quarreled previously at a bowling alley in Pennsauken, according to investigative reports of the killing.

Nhut Thach went out to the street to attempt to resolve differences between the two young men but Hieu Thach pulled a handgun and began to fire.

One bullet hit Nhut Thach in the head, killing him. A second shot wounded the intended victim, then 19, who was pushing his younger brother into the house for safety.

John Thach, now 20 and a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, told Superior Court Judge Samuel Natal he "was 10 when my father was taken away. Watching his body lying there I felt that all my dreams were shattered."

"My brother tried his best to guide me, but sometimes I just felt like I was lost," John Thach said.

His sister, Trang Thach, 32, described her father as "the best dad in the world. He worked seven days a week for his family. He never spent even $100 on himself."

She said her father pushed his children to do well in school, "but we were lost. We didn't know what we were doing."

Referring to Hieu Thach, she said, "he doesn't treasure human life."

A second man charged in connection with the fatal shooting, Sica Lam, was convicted of reckless manslaughter for driving the killer to the Thach home. He was paroled in 2001.

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