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Woman charged with double homicide receives capital punishment

By Phuoc Tuan   July 2, 2020 | 11:38 pm PT
Woman charged with double homicide receives capital punishment
Pham Thi Thien Ha is escorted to leave the court in Binh Duong Province after receiving her death sentence, July 3, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan.
A woman has been sentenced to death and her three female accomplices jailed for killing two men, dumping their bodies in tanks of concrete.

Pham Thi Thien Ha, 32, a resident of HCMC, was awarded the death penalty Friday by a court in neighboring Binh Duong Province for instigating the murder of two men in May last year.

On the charge of "murder" and "concealing the crime," her mother, Trinh Thi Hong Hoa, 67, got 13 years in prison, while two other women, Nguyen Ngoc Tam Huyen, 41, of HCMC, received jail terms of 19 years, and Le Ngoc Phuong Thao, 30, from the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, 22 years.

The four women, including their male victims, Tran Duc Linh, 52, from north central Nghe An Province, and Tran Tri Thanh, 27, from HCMC, were all members of a sect led by Ha.

Ha told the court she had formed the sect in July 2018, composing all the rules herself. Some regulations required members to drink wine and smoke cigarettes regularly, while others included inflicting pain, alongside homebound fasting for 10 straight days.

The group used to rent houses in HCMC, Binh Duong, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Khanh Hoa Province on the south central coast to run "retreats."

Nguyen Ngoc Tam Huyen (L) holds the arm of Trinh Thi Hong Hoa as Le Ngoc Phuong Thao is behind them when the three are escorted to the court in Binh Duong Province, July 3, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan

Nguyen Ngoc Tam Huyen (L) holds Trinh Thi Hong Hoa by the arm as Le Ngoc Phuong Thao brings up the rear at the court in Binh Duong Province on July 3, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan.

An investigation was launched into the group after the bodies of Linh and Thanh were discovered in May last year by a man who bought one of its properties in Binh Duong.

In one bedroom, he found a water tank filled with concrete, a decomposing body encased inside. A subsequent police search discovered another concrete-filled tank with a body.

Investigators revealed later one murder took place at a house in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, also bordering HCMC, and the other at the rented house in Binh Duong itself.

The murder

The court heard Ha's sect used to include two more women who fled due to the harsh conditions.

When Linh found the rules too stringent, he too tried to escape, jumping from a second floor window in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, severely injuring himself.

But instead of taking him to hospital, Ha and the rest of her team beat him and let him perish, preserving his body in an air-conditioned room.

A week later, the group moved to the rented house in Binh Duong, bringing along Linh’s body. Here, it was embalmed by Thanh using tea leaves, packed it in sponge, glue and silicon before being placed inside a plastic tank filled with concrete.

After a while, Thanh too could no longer take the stress. He was fond of sneaking out at night for food, so Ha decided to lock and starve him in a room to "repent for his sins."

As repentance proved difficult, the group decided to get rid of Thanh.

Ha sent Thao to buy a battery and electric actuator, used during a fake acupuncture session. In the process, Thanh was electrocuted, then strangled to death by Ha.

Three days later, the all-female group bought a plastic water tank, put Thanh's body inside, then filled it with concrete.

Aside from their sentences, the four women are requested to pay Linh’s family over VND262 million (nearly $11,300) and provide his mother VND1.5 million a month until her death. Compensation for Thanh's family was determined at VND180 million.

The sect's vehicle has since been seized by the court for public funding purposes.

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