South Sound News

Detectives: 2 teens, one dead, identified as suspects in Puyallup store owner murder

Pierce County detectives identified the two suspects in the murder of a 79-year-old Puyallup store owner, one of who was arrested Wednesday and the other was found dead under unknown circumstances at a shoreline in Tacoma.

Joseph Nam and his wife, Soon Ja Nam, owned Handy Corner store in Puyallup for nearly 40 years.

“I saw the whole shooting right in front of me. I saw my wife falling down to the floor,” Joseph Nam said.

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The 85-year-old watched as his wife of 55 years was shot and killed inside their convenience store April 27.

“Anybody who would be so callous and coldhearted and do this type of crime is somebody who wouldn't hesitate to do it again,” said Det. Ed Troyer.

Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies had been looking for the two men connected to the crime. On Sunday, they found the getaway car, a 1990s Nissan, ditched in Federal Way.

Police began searching for the 16-year-old associated with the vehicle who also matched witness descriptions of one of the men involved in the murder of Soon Ja Nam. Police conducted a search warrant Monday at the 16-year-old's last known address in Federal Way but were unable to locate him.

At about 9:30 a.m. Monday, a body was found washed up on the shoreline at Chinook Landing Marine in northeast Tacoma. It was recovered by Puyallup Tribal Police and the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office. Investigators determined that the body appeared to be a young black man who died from a gunshot wound and had been in the water for several hours.

He was later identified as the suspect tied to the getaway car.

The second 16-year-old suspect was located early Wednesday in a parking lot in Tacoma. He was placed into custody and is expected to be booked for murder.

"What terrible series of losses due to failure of values and major, major bad choices,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.

Soon Ja Nam leaves behind two sons, a grandson and a loving husband, who wishes he could see his wife again.