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  • Son Nguyen

  • Son Nguyen pictured with his mother, Nuong Thu Nguyen

SANTA ANA – A son who strangled his frail mother after an argument about his future apologized for his actions Friday, shortly before a judge sentenced him to six years in prison for the killing.

“I loved my mom very much. I always have and always will,” said Son Nguyen, 31. “I believe she forgives me and she is watching over me in jail.”

The killing itself occurred the evening of Dec. 21, 2008 in the Garden Grove home that Son Nguyen shared with his 71-year-old mother, Nuong Thu Nguyen.

The pair was scheduled to leave Orange County in a week and return to the Caribbean, where he was attending medical school.

But Son Nguyen didn’t want to be a doctor.

He told police that his mother confronted him that night about his plans. She asked if he wanted to finish medical school, he said. He responded that he wanted to be a pharmacist, he told police.

They started yelling. Son Nguyen told police he went “ballistic” and strangled his mother. He then fled the apartment and returned 10 hours later.

He was tried on murder charges, but a jury in March convicted him of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

On Friday, Nguyen’s attorney, Rob Harley, asked Orange County Superior Court Judge D. Conley to give his client the least possible prison sentence: three years. Conley had the option of sentencing Nguyen to three years, six years or 11 years in prison.

Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley noted that Nguyen did not have to kill his mother, but could have just moved away from her. “The defendant did a terrible thing and he should be held accountable for it,” Talley said.

Son Nguyen’s family and friends packed the courtroom for his sentencing hearing. Hai Nguyen, 28, told Conley that he forgave his brother for killing their mother.

“I don’t put blame on my brother,” he said. “I beg you to give him the lesser sentence.”

His aunt, Marie Nguyen, presented a slide show to the judge, which illustrates her plan for caring for her nephew after his release.

“We cannot bring Nuong Thu Nguyen back, but we can help Son Nguyen begin a new life,” she said.

The judge noted the defendant’s mother was “visibly frail and tiny,” and that Nguyen chose to leave his mother rather than render her aid.

“He knew what he was doing. He knew it was wrong,” Conley said.

As for the motive, Conley described the situation simply: “(She was) an old lady, who in a misguided way, is nagging him to be better than he was.”

Later, right before handing down the sentence, Conley added: “It was a difficult situation for him, but it was not an excuse.”

Contact the writer: 714-834-3773 or

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