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63-year-old receives life sentence for murder of Vien Ngoc Bui in Mission

Judge sets 12-year parole ineligibility for Van Chau Nguyen after guilty plea in 2020 homicide
An IHIT officer stands outside the Gunn Avenue building where a fire took place around 2 a.m. on Aug. 8, 2020. The body of Vien Ngoc Bui was discovered in the building, and Van Chau Nguyen was later sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder with a 12-year parole ineligibility period. /Mission Record File Photo

WARNING: This story contains graphic details

A man was sentenced Thursday (Feb. 15) to life in prison with 12 years of parole ineligibility after previously pleading guilty to the 2020 murder of Vien Ngoc Bui of Mission.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Tammen also sentenced Van Chau Nguyen, 63, to serve three years concurrently for a charge of assault with a weapon.

Nguyen pleaded guilty to both second-degree murder and assault with a weapon on May 5, 2023. Three other charges – arson, forcible confinement and uttering threats — were stayed.

The charges stem from an incident in August 2020 when first responders attended a fire at Gunn Avenue in Mission and discovered the body of Bui, 64, inside a burned building.

At the time, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) concluded that Bui was the victim of homicide.

According to the facts laid out by the Crown, Bui was the manager of a marijuana grow-op at 30819 Gunn Ave. Bui worked at the property and often stayed overnight at the main residence.

Nguyen also worked at the location and stayed at the main residence for several months before leaving a month before the murder.

On Aug. 8, 2020, Nguyen went to the home in a raincoat while carrying bear spray, a machete and a knife. He attacked and killed Bui by cutting off his left hand and right foot with the machete. He also used weapons and zip ties to assault other victims and confine them to the bathroom.

Nguyen then set the main residence on fire with gasoline. As he was leaving, he discarded evidence along the way, including the machete, knife and bear spray.

Those confined in the bathroom escaped by jumping from a second-storey window, with several being injured in the process.

Crown counsel read a victim impact statement from one of the surviving victims, in addition to Bui’s daughter.

The victim said the incident has had a lasting effect both mentally and physically. Nguyen slashed their face and kicked them, forcing them to fall into a chair. In the years since, it has left their face scarred and their eyesight blurred. They also broke their back and required surgery after escaping from the second-storey bathroom.

Bui’s daughter, Jenny, said it feels like time has stood still since her father was killed.

“His death has left a void in me which can never be filled. To this day, when I see any spark of fire, I am reminded of how my dad was mercilessly killed,” Bui’s statement read.

The penalty for second-degree murder is an automatic life sentence with parole ineligibility, ranging from 10 to 25 years, decided by the judge.

Tammen said the aggravating factors included the “brutal nature of the killing,” the destruction of evidence in the fire that subjected Bui’s body to further indignity, and the planning and forethought involved in the incident.

The mitigating factors included the guilty plea and expressions of remorse. Additionally, Tammen said Nguyen’s age and health issues could make his prison time more onerous than for a younger person.

Nguyen has been in the Surrey Pre-Trial Centre since his arrest in October 2020 and requires daily medications to treat hepatitis B, the court heard.

The parole ineligibility period will begin from the date of Nguyen’s arrest on Oct. 2, 2020.

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Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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