David Rich Hang was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by a Montgomery County judge Monday for the first-degree murder of his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Jessica Nguyen.
Hang, 43, was convicted of the May 31, 2011, murder after a seven-day trial in August. Prosecutors used an exhaustive overview of DNA and blood spatter evidence along with witness testimony to convince the jury that Hang was responsible for stabbing Nguyen more than 40 times in the basement of her Gaithersburg home. DNA evidence lifted from the sheath of the sword used in the killing never was linked definitively to Hang, but repeated tests revealed he was more than likely the primary contributor.
Although the law mandates a life sentence for those convicted of first-degree murder, Judge Sharon V. Burrell was free to withhold part or all of the sentence Monday. Burrell’s verdict was short and to the point.
“Due to the brutal nature of the facts in this case ... the court sentences the defendant to life without the possibility of parole,” Burrell said, closing the hearing.
Earlier in the hearing, Montgomery County Public Defender Brian Shefferman had argued to allow Hang the chance for parole, telling Burrell that, years later, more evidence or other factors could come to light.
“This is someone who has gone 40 years of his life without ever displaying any propensity for any violent crimes,” he told Burrell. “... A sentence of life for a person like Mr. Hang, who has never been in trouble before, a sentence of life without parole is simply not necessary.”
Assistant State’s Attorneys Debbie Feinstein and Stephen Chaikin previously had filed their intent to seek a life sentence without parole after Hang’s conviction, a position they held to at Monday’s hearing.
“In this case the family will never get Jessica back, [even years later] they will be in the same place because they lost someone they loved and the defendant is the one responsible for that,” Feinstein said.
Nguyen’s mother, Khen Kim Vu, also sat before the judge and tearfully asked her, through a court interpreter, to sentence Hang to life without the possibility of parole, the maximum penalty allowable.
“A robber has some charity for a child, why is he so cruel?” Vu told Burrell through sobs. “... He destroyed my life. I will always miss my child.”
Hang, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest, spoke out against his conviction for the first time Monday, calling it unjust and wrongful. Hang even called out the prosecutors and detectives who worked on his case, telling them that they would themselves be judged for their deeds by God.
“To my surprise, the detectives and prosecutors wrongly accused me of killing Jessica, but I want you all to know that I did not kill Jessica,” Hang told Nguyen’s family. “So I am a victim in this case, too.”
Hang also pointed out what he called “discrepancies” in the evidence presented at his trial and promised to appeal his decision.
Chaikin painted a different portrait of Hang, telling the judge that, in a telephone call made by Hang to his new wife from jail, Hang revealed his true colors.
“He said that, speaking of Jessica’s mother, ‘She has been punished by her death, and it serves her right,’” Chaikin told the judge, reading from a transcript of the phone call, which was recorded by the Department of Corrections.