EVERETT — From 2,500 miles away Linda Nguyen’s family listened as a judge on Friday ordered a Tacoma man to spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering the young woman and her boyfriend inside an Everett pot house.
A jury last month convicted Areewa Saray, 21, of aggravated murder in the 2007 slayings. Jurors were told that Saray and co-defendant Sarouen Phai, 25, intended to rob the dope house on Dexter Avenue. Instead, Nguyen and Kevin Meas were brutally executed, prosecutors told jurors.
Phai is expected to go to trial in March.
Under the law Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Larry McKeeman had no other option than to sentence Saray to two life terms without the possibility of release.
Nguyen’s relatives, who live in Massachusetts, listened from a conference call. They chose not to speak.
Nguyen, 20, and Meas, 24, had only lived in Everett for a couple of months before they were killed. They’d come to Washington on the promise of making a lot of money caring for an indoor marijuana farm. Nguyen wanted to earn enough money to pay for nursing school, jurors were told.
Saray also chose not to speak. His attorney Stephen Garvey told McKeeman that Saray plans to appeal his conviction.
Sahara Chea, Saray’s pastor, said the man’s relatives are concerned that Saray was set up for conviction. They are particularly suspicious since those involved in the drug operations were Vietnamese and ‘Saray is Cambodian, Chea said.
“It really opened up old wounds,” he said. “It’s sad it happened between rival countries.”
Chea said he is praying for healing for both families.
Saray’s relatives sat shoulder-to-shoulder inside the courtroom.
His sister told the judge that her brother isn’t the person the prosecutors portrayed.
“He’s loving, caring and a helpful person,” Vuthear Yuorn said.
He has held his family together, she said.
Yuorn told McKeeman that her family feels sorry for what happened to Nguyen and Meas. Her family also feels as if they have been victimized. They are hopeful “with an appeal they’ll see a brighter day in court,” she said.
McKeeman called the slayings a horrible crime that not only took the lives of two people but also has caused the victims’ and Saray’s families to suffer.
“It’s just unfortunate that even with a strong family backing you essentially chose to throw your own life way by committing these crimes,” McKeeman said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, firstname.lastname@example.org.