KING COUNTY — Deputies with the King County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday that an arrest has been made in the murder of a woman in 1998 -- and the arrest happened after evidence from 1998 was reviewed.
On Nov. 9, 1998, deputies say 28-year-old Nguyet “Anna” Nguyen, who had an 11-year-old daughter, left home and told her mother she was going to visit her fiancé. Nguyen was never seen or heard from again. Detectives said they suspected foul play early on in the investigation.
Despite never finding Nguyen’s body, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office issued a death certificate for her in 2015.
Deputies said their investigation in Nguyen’s disappearance began Nov. 10, 1998, when her family reported her missing.
“Detectives learned that the day she was reported missing, Nguyen had plans to fly to Reno, NV with her fiancé to get married,” deputies said in a press release.
On Nov. 11, 1998, deputies said Nguyen’s vehicle was located in the parking lot of a Tukwila casino and an ex-boyfriend of Nguyen’s was questioned about her disappearance.
“Although he denied having any involvement in her disappearance, detectives noted that he provided ever-changing stories regarding his whereabouts during the time in which Ms. Nguyen went missing,” deputies said.
In 2019, a Detective John Free was assigned to the investigation and found surveillance footage from the Riverside Casino on and around the date Nguyen disappeared.
"Although it was known that detectives had previously viewed the footage, there was no comprehensive record to reflect what had been viewed an analyzed," according to a probable case statement.
Detective Free reviewed the footage and among the approximately 283 hours of footage from six cameras, he said her ex-boyfriend, Phan Kim Seng, is clearly seen on casino surveillance video. Seng told police he was not there, and also that he had a scratch under one of his eyes from playing basketball. But investigators believe he went to the casino after the confrontation with Nguyen, and that his scratch was made well before his story about the pickup basketball game.
In a press release, the Sheriff's Office said it reexamined the case and gathered facts that weren’t previously known to detectives.
It appears from court documents that the break came when Free reviewed and logged the 1998 casino surveillance that already was in evidence.
On Friday, deputies arrested Seng and booking him into the King County Jail. He's charged with second-degree murder.
“This is the fourth cold case our Major Crimes detectives have solved this year,” said Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht. “My Major Crimes detectives do outstanding work with limited staffing and still no funding for a dedicated Cold Case Unit. Instead, they work these unsolved murders in addition to their heavy caseloads in the pursuit of justice and closure for the families who have lost their loved ones.”
Below is KIRO 7's coverage on cold cases:
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Jul. 22, 2012: Possible break in case of Teekah Lewis' disappearance
Nov. 9, 2011: Timeline in disappearance of Sky Metalwala
Jan. 19, 2015: Bellevue police detective will take fresh look at cold cases
Nov. 6, 2018: Bellevue boy, Sky Metalwala, missing for seven years
Jul. 19, 2019: Man arrested in Tenino mother's cold case murder set free
April 3, 2012: Utah police chief defends handling of Powell case
Dec. 10, 2012: Search for Susan Powell led to father-in-law's phone
Oct. 26, 2107: Investigators want to crack computer in Susan Powell case
Aug. 29, 2018: DNA obtained by co-worker can be used in 1989 murder trial
May 24, 2019: Guilty verdict in 1989 cold-case murder trial
Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg
May 18, 2018: Arrest made in 1987 Snohomish County cold case
Michella Welch and Jennifer Bastian
Aug. 12, 2013: New tips collected in 1986 murders of Tacoma girls
Sep. 15, 2014: DNA of sex offenders being tested in cold cases
April 6, 2016: Experts treat 30-year-old murders as if they just happened
Jun. 21, 2018: Friends of victim react to cold-case arrest
Other local cold cases
Jun. 20, 2012: Man tied to unsolved rapes, slaying may never be arrested
Jul. 27, 2012: Cold case dig under concrete floor comes up empty
Jul. 10, 2013: Man charged with murder in 1986 cold case
Jul. 26, 2013: Tacoma cold case suspect charged
Jan. 13, 2014: Remains exhumed in 23-year-old cold case
Mar. 11, 2014: New evidence in Mountlake Terrace cold case death
Jun. 20, 2014: Rapist expected to admit to 1980 cold case murder
Aug. 27, 2014: Man charged in 1993 cold-case murder
April 30, 2015: Former Pasco officer named as suspect in cold case homicide
Mar. 24, 2106: After 35-plus years, man arrested in Seattle killing
Mar. 26, 2106: Man convicted of 1993 murder gets 37-year sentence
Sept. 20, 2016: A look at Seattle cold cases: Can you help solve them?
Jun. 28, 2017: Jury deciding fate of transgender woman charged with murder
Feb. 13, 2019: Two suspects arrested on murder charges from 1995 cold case
Mar. 15, 2019: Remains found in 1971 identified as missing Aberdeen teen.
April 11, 2019: In wake of cold cases, Legislature poised to expand DNA testing
April 11, 2019: Deputies: DNA linked woman to cold case arson scene
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