Charges: Falling out between friends preceded murder in Marysville

Prosecutors allege Khoa Nguyen offered to apologize to Stephen Collins in person, but then killed him earlier this month.

Marysville

MARYSVILLE — Just hours before allegedly killing his longtime friend, Khoa Nguyen texted that he wanted to say sorry, criminal charges filed Friday show.

Nguyen, 36, faces charges of second-degree murder and unlawful firearm possession in the shooting of Stephen Collins, 37, who was killed earlier this month in Marysville.

The episode Nguyen may have been trying to apologize for came about a month before Collins’ death.

He banged on Collins’ door at his apartment in the Hallmark House complex at 7218 47th Avenue NE, witnesses told investigators. He reported needing a place to stay because he’d just shot someone. But the friends quickly had a confrontation after Nguyen appeared to be loading Collins’ belongings, including an electric bike, into his own car, according to charging papers.

This incident reportedly led to their falling out.

About a month later, on the afternoon of Jan. 2, Nguyen texted Collins.

“Hey I wanted to tell u sorry,” he wrote, according to court papers. “It’s Khoa.”

Just before 10 p.m. that night, Nguyen arrived at the Marysville apartment complex in his Honda Pilot, court papers say. Nguyen banged on the back door to the apartment. Collins refused to answer. He didn’t want to deal with Nguyen, he told his girlfriend.

But he reportedly left his cell phone in his car. So he went to the parking lot to get it.

Around 10:11 p.m., Collins stood outside the passenger door of the Pilot. That’s when two flashes lit up on surveillance cameras, deputy prosecutor Michael Boska wrote in the charges. Collins fell back.

Nguyen got out of the Pilot, walked over to Collins, ran back to the driver’s side and drove away, according to court documents.

Hearing the shots, Collins’ girlfriend ran outside. She found Collins on the ground and called 911. Less than ten minutes later, medics pronounced him dead. He didn’t have any weapons, according to the charges.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office reportedly found three gunshot wounds on Collins, two in the back and one in his chest.

Over six hours later, police were able to contact Nguyen at his home in Granite Falls. He responded to his name. He reported needing more time to surrender. He wanted to speak to his parents, according to court papers. Nguyen held what looked like a pistol to his head. In a 911 call of his own, he told authorities he planned to kill himself.

About three more hours later, around 7:45 a.m. Jan. 3, a SWAT team took the suspect into custody without incident. Nguyen told officers he killed someone because he was trying to help and someone had been hiding “dirty ass guns around my property.” He also claimed he killed Collins in self-defense.

A friend told detectives Nguyen becomes a different person when he uses Xanax. It makes him violent, the friend reported. He used Xanax on the day of the shooting, prosecutors alleged.

In a previous incident, Nguyen had held a gun to to the head of Collins’ friend. Collins had to wrestle it away, according to court documents.

After Nguyen’s arrest, investigators found his Pilot under a tarp with different license plates on the front and back. They also recovered a 9 mm pistol with no visible serial number, known as a “ghost gun” that is intended to be untraceable. Three bullet casings were found in the Pilot, the charges say.

Nguyen has multiple prior felony convictions, including for taking a motor vehicle without permission in 2009 and possession of a stolen vehicle in 2015, prosecutors reported. These convictions barred him from having a gun.

In 2020, he was convicted of unlawful firearm possession. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Edirin Okoloko sentenced him to five days in jail.

On Monday, the suspect remained in the Snohomish County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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