Community mourns death of crime spree victim

September 19, 2011 7:19:11 PM PDT
Family and friends of a community leader are devastated over her death in a South Bay crime spree. For all who knew Cindy Nguyen, the loss is almost too much to bear.

Nguyen is being remembered as an active and well loved member of San Jose's Vietnamese community.

Nguyen had been promoting the local festivities for the Moon Festival on her morning radio talk show.

The Rev. Thich Quong Bao of the Di Lac Buddhist Temple hosts his program just before Nguyen's. He says she was so excited about the festival when he spoke with her the day before she disappeared.

"We held the Moon Festival over there and she really want to come to help the event," he said.

Sunday, the temple held a prayer service for Nguyen.

"We had a meaningful prayer for her and about few thousand people were there," Bao said.

Nguyen's co-workers still cannot believe she's gone.

"I still have that hope that it's not her and I'm sure I'm speaking for more than one person in this entire community," PN Real Estate Group broker Nick Pham said.

Her desk at the PN Real Estate Group has become a memorial of sorts, where colleagues stop by and reflect on this caring respected 60-year-old mother of three.

Pham says she was a big sister to everyone there.

"She would drop everything to take care of whatever you asked her first, before she took care of herself," Pham said.

Sunday, police caught the man they believe killed her. Parolee Paul Castillo has a long rap sheet.

Investigators say Castillo had no reason to kill Nguyen. Her body was found Saturday morning in a home on North 12th Street.

"If he wanted to rob her for her car, a carjacker, he could have driven around the corner, let her go and taken her car," San Jose Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.

Police arrested Castillo Sunday night at a pizza parlor in Sacramento after they got a tip. He was wanted for a crime spree that started Friday with a shooting at a gas station. That victim was wounded in the robbery attempt. An hour later, Nguyen, who was driving a white Lexus, was carjacked a mile away at the Plant Shopping Center.

Pham says Nguyen called the office just moments the suspected carjacking, saying her battery had died and she needed a jump, but then, added she had found help. That afternoon, her co-workers sensed something awful had happened when she failed to pick up her daughter at school.

Later that night, police spotted the Lexus. They shot at the suspect when they said he accelerated the car toward officers. He ran into an apartment complex. A massive police search turned up nothing.

Castillo will be arraigned on various charges relating to the crime spree.

Nguyen's family and friends are planning a vigil for Friday evening.

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