July 11, 1995 in Nation/World

Couple Found Bound, Murdered 3-Year-Old Boy May Have Been Witness To His Parents’ Murder

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Three-year-old Johnny Hagan III wandered from his family’s north Spokane apartment at dawn Monday and tearfully told neighbors his mother was dead.

After neighbors called 911, officers found both the boy’s parents, Hong Nga Thi Pham, 23, and Johnny Hagan Jr., 26, murdered. Their hands were bound behind their backs and they both had been shot, possibly in the head.

Johnny and his little sister Diana, 1-1/2, apparently were in the apartment at 3203 N. Smith when the killings occurred. The boy may be an eyewitness, said Sgt. Jim Lundgren.

Police took the child in his pajamas to the Public Safety Building for an interview, but he was unable to provide any information. Detectives plan on getting help from a child psychologist.

Detectives said they have no suspects and do not know of a motive for the killings. The apartment had not been broken into.

Some neighbors in the apartment complex suspected robbery, saying the couple kept their cash and family jewels in the apartment.

“They were a very happy couple,” said Thang Dang, a neighbor. “I don’t think they had any trouble.”

Residents living near the small apartment building had been writing down license plates of cars visiting the building because they thought drug sales were occurring in one of the units.

However, the couple were not suspected of selling drugs and no illegal drugs were found in the apartment, Lundgren said.

Johnny Hagan Jr. was supposed to accompany other Vietnamese immigrants to an orchard to pick berries Monday morning, as he had done for the last several days.

When his friends called his home at 4:30 a.m., no one answered. Neighbors found little Johnny crying outside the apartment at 5:15 a.m.

In addition to picking berries, Hagan, who was called Sang by his Vietnamese friends, worked odd jobs and rented out Asian videos from his apartment.

Hagan was the son of an American serviceman who bore the same name and served with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He was never able to track down his father.

He and his wife emigrated from Vietnam to Spokane five years ago, with the help of the Catholic Charities refugee resettlement program. Their sponsors, Dot and Ray Kirschke, said the couple spoke little English and didn’t understand much of the culture when they arrived.

The first night, the Kirschkes got a call from Johnny Hagan, who said his wife was crying uncontrollably.

“Nga was homesick and she was scared to death because we had told her to bolt the door behind her,” Dot Kirschke said. “They were pretty dependent on us that first year.”

The couple called the Kirschkes “Ma” and “Dad.” After the first year, they adapted well to Spokane, she said.

The couple signed up for English classes. Ray Kirschke taught them both how to drive. Within a month, they moved to the apartment building on North Smith, where several other Vietnamese families live.

“They loved America,” Dot Kirschke said.

That’s why they gave their children American names, she said.

The children also had Vietnamese names, Thien and Pang.

Johnny Hagan has an aunt who lives in Spokane. Pham’s aunt and uncle and cousins also live in Spokane.

Johnny Hagan’s mother and brother live in Pasco. They arrived in Spokane on Monday afternoon to take charge of the two orphaned children.

In addition to the Vietnamese families, several Russian families live in the apartment building.

Police called in both Vietnamese and Russian interpreters to help with the interviews.

Pathologist Dr. George Lindholm is out of town for the rest of the week. Detectives said they did not know who would perform the autopsies.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos


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