Kent man charged with murder in cold case

Burien woman went missing in 1998

A 62-year-old Kent man faces a second-degree murder charge for allegedly killing a former girlfriend 21 years ago.

Phan Kim Seng, a retired Renton car salesman, allegedly killed Nguyet “Anna” Nguyen, of Burien, on or about Nov. 9, 1998, because he was unwilling to accept the end of their relationship and so she could not marry her fiancé, according to charging papers filed in King County Superior Court. Prosecutors also claim Seng killed Nguyen so he would not be convicted in a fourth-degree assault case when he reportedly tried to strangle her.

Seng is in custody in the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle with bail set at $2 million. King County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested Seng the morning of Oct. 25 at his Kent home in the 10000 block of Southeast 220th Street. Seng is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 7 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle.

Relatives reported Nguyen missing when the 28-year-old, the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, never returned home after telling her mother she was going to visit her fiancé, according to court documents. She has not been seen or heard from since that night. Although her body has never been found, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office issued a death certificate for her in 2015.

Detectives questioned Seng, then 42, shortly after Nguyen’s disappearance, but didn’t arrest him for the killing. On Nov. 11, 1998, Nguyen’s vehicle was located in the parking lot of a Tukwila casino. Seng denied having any involvement in her disappearance. But detectives noted that he provided ever-changing stories regarding his whereabouts during the time in which Nguyen went missing. Detectives learned that the day she was reported missing, Nguyen had plans to fly to Reno with her fiancé to get married.

Earlier this year, Major Crimes Detectives re-examined the case, along with its evidence. During this review, facts were gathered that weren’t previously known to detectives, leading them to Seng in connection with Nguyen’s disappearance and suspected murder, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Detective John Free was assigned to continue working the investigation this year. He reviewed nearly 283 hours of video footage from the Riverside Casino where Nguyen’s car was discovered. He reviewed video from six locations in and throughout the casino. The detective also reviewed surveillance footage from ATMs where someone had used Nguyen’s cards for three days after her disappearance.

By reviewing the videos, Free was able to match Seng as the man at the ATM machines and as the man seen outside the casino near where Nguyen’s car had been found. He wore a matching distinctive Polo brand coat at both locations.

The ATM videos also showed Seng with a bandage under his right eye. Seng claimed he received the scratch playing basketball. Detectives had observed a fresh scratch when they talked to Seng.

With the new information, detectives contacted Seng on Oct. 23 outside his Kent home. When told they were looking into the disappearance of Nguyen, Seng reportedly asked them if he was going to be arrested. After detectives told him they were not there to arrest him, he confirmed he had not heard from her since she disappeared. He also denied being at the Riverside Casino the night she disappeared.

Detectives claim that Seng met up with Nguyen the night she disappeared, as evidenced from her calling him twice that night, according to court documents. When she refused to stop her plans to marry another man, Seng killed her and disposed of her body. He then reportedly drove her Acura Legend to the parking lot of the Riverside Casino, as evidenced by his presence there around 2:15 a.m.

When first questioned in 1998, Seng told detectives he was working with his brother the night Nguyen went missing. His brother initially backed up that story, but then told detectives Seng had asked him to lie about working with him that night if police asked, which provided him with a false alibi. Seng’s brother said he last saw him at about 9 a.m. on Nov. 9 and did not see him again until Nov. 11.

Seng has a criminal history that includes conviction of fourth-degree assault domestic violence in 1991 in Tukwila for kicking his then ex-wife during an argument; first-degree theft in 1999 in Pierce County; attempted malicious mischief in 1994 in King County for a road rage incident when he kicked the victim’s car; and third-degree theft in 1998.

Seng also faced fourth-degree assault, interfering with domestic violence reporting and malicious mischief that were the result of trying to strangle the victim, breaking her property and disabling the telephone during a incident with Nguyen less than two months before her disappearance.

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