A 21-year-old student at the University of Washington was fatally stabbed more than 100 times by her stepfather as she was trying to defend her mother from his abuse, authorities said.
In court documents obtained by HuffPost, police said that Angelina Tran, 21, apparently woke in the middle of the night on Aug. 7 to commotion coming from the family’s kitchen in their home in Beacon Hill, Seattle. The documents allege that Tran saw her mother being beaten by her stepfather, Nghiep Kein Chau, 54, and stepped in to intervene at the cost of her own life.
“Angelina Tran’s intervention allowed her mother to escape and hide in a nearby bedroom, but the defendant did not stop his attack,” prosecutors said in a criminal complaint against Chau.
Chau has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder and is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 31.
Angelina Tran, 21, was reportedly a student of human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. A professor said she was "passionate about designing for accessibility and inclusivity.”
According to a police probable cause statement, security camera footage from Aug. 7 shows Chau punching Tran’s mother in the face at least 15 times before Tran confronted him. She then stepped in between Chau and her mother to get him to stop, authorities said.
Chau allegedly continued to strike Tran’s mother and then struck Tran in the face as well. Her mother was able to break free and run down the stairs while Tran was holding onto Chau, until they both fell near a folding dog kennel in the middle of the room, according to the probable cause document.
Police said Chau then dragged a piece of the dog kennel, with Tran on top of it, toward a kitchen cabinet and opened a drawer containing multiple knives.
Chau began stabbing Tran as she fought back, according to police, and continued to stab his stepdaughter even after she “stopped displaying any signs of life.”
Chau allegedly took breaks as he was stabbing Tran, and told police that he changed his clothes at one point because he was cold from being covered in blood.
In the court documents, police described video footage that showed Chau pausing his attack on Tran to search the home for Tran’s mother, whom he allegedly told police he also intended to kill. Tran’s mother was hiding nearby and had called 911.
Police said they arrived to the grim sight of Tran’s mother “visibly upset” with “fresh bleeding injuries” to her face, accompanied by Tran’s grandmother. According to court documents, police found Chau injured, with blood all over him and holding a bloody knife.
Upstairs, police said they found Tran’s “obviously” deceased body in the kitchen.
According to court documents, Chau and Tran’s mother had been together for the past 19 years and married last year. Chau allegedly told officers that he and Tran’s mother had been arguing over money and that it violently escalated when he hit her.
Tran’s supporters have posted a fundraiser on GoFundMe for the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging in memory of Tran, who they said had a “passion for helping elders.”
“Her radiant smile was a source of immense joy, and though the ache of her loss is deep, we believe Angelina would want us to stand strong and keep our smiles bright,” the fundraiser read.
Victor Balta, a spokesperson for the University of Washington, told HuffPost in an email that the school was “shocked and saddened” by the death of one of its students.
“Our hearts go out to Angelina’s family and loved ones,” Balta said. “Counselors and other resources are available for students, faculty and staff, and we encourage those in need to use them for support during this very difficult time.”
Julie Kientz, professor and chair of human centered design and engineering at UW, described Tran as an incredible student who was “passionate about designing for accessibility and inclusivity.”
“She was involved in several directed research groups, including one on designing a toolkit for peer support for community safety and another on analyzing wilderness medicine data from a Southeast Alaskan field site,” Kientz said.
Kientz added that Tran was active in several organizations on and off campus.
“Angelina’s instructors shared with me that she was a superb student and very enthusiastic about design research. I know she will be greatly missed,” Kientz said.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 women have reported being the victim of physical violence from their intimate partner in their lifetime.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.