When Trang's parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam, they dreamed of a better life for their six children. Hue Nguyen and Loi Ngo worked seven days a week at a jewelry store in Sacramento, California, so that their children could focus on their schoolwork, says Trang, their eldest child.
Eventually, Trang graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. She was the first in her family to attend college.
Then, on July 25, 2003, Trang's life took a tragic turn. Both her parents were shot and killed at the jewelry store where they worked. Suddenly, Trang and her five brothers and sisters were orphans with nowhere to turn.
As the oldest child, tradition required Trang, who was just 20 years old, to step up and lead the family. "My relatives told me I couldn't cry," she says. "They said, 'You're the oldest. You have to be the strong one now.'"
After her parents' funeral, Trang's relatives made plans to split up the siblings, but Trang says she refused. "I said, 'We can't be separated now. We just lost both of our parents. How could you even think to separate us right now?'" she remembers. "They kept on telling me, 'You can't do anything. You're too young.'"
After making the decision to keep the family together, Trang moved her five siblings from Sacramento to the Berkeley area, where she was enrolled in college. Her parents didn't leave behind a will or life insurance money, so Trang worked two jobs to support her family. All the while, she continued taking a full load of classes at Berkeley.
When she wasn't at work or in class, Trang says she made sure she was very present in her siblings' lives. She even found a way to drive them to school every morning.
At first, Trang says her brothers and sisters had a hard time accepting her as the head of the household, but these days her success speaks for itself. Four of her five siblings are now in college, and Trang will graduate soon and pursue a career in banking.
Trang and her siblings are living their parents' dream, but three years later, their parents' case remains unsolved.
Surveillance video from the jewelry store where Trang's mother and father were murdered shows a man posing as a customer. The man entered Sacramento's Kim Van Jewelry Store at 11 a.m. on July 25, 2003, and browsed the display cases before going into the back workroom with Hue Nguyen and Loi Ngo.
A short time later, the video shows the man coming out of the workroom with a gun in his hand. Trang's parents were later found dead with gunshot wounds to their heads. Police believe that the man in question left behind a very small size 3, 1 1/4 carat diamond ring (pictured above).
The suspect is described as an Asian male, possibly Vietnamese. He is approximately 17–25 years old, has a slender build and is probably left handed. At the time of the murder, he was wearing an off-white baseball cap, short-sleeved blue or gray T-shirt, tan pants and white tennis shoes.
A witness saw him drive away in a 1990s beige-to-light gold Ford Thunderbird with a black front fender. There is currently a $50,000 reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of this suspect. If you recognize the man or the ring, call 916-874-8493 with information—callers may remain anonymous.
So what can we do to help children who are dealing with adult responsibilities at home? "I think that it's really important for school administrators and friends of kids to look out for signs," Lisa says.
Lisa says there are a few telltale signs. "If the kids are tired. If they're exhausted. If they're having the inability to focus," she says.
It's especially important for other adults to ask questions, Lisa says. "They try and hide their problems because they're so afraid that they'll be taken away by child protective services," Lisa says. "And what's worse than even being taken away from their parents is they'll be separated from their siblings. And that's a huge fear because no matter how bad the situation is at home, they'd rather keep their family intact."
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