West Valley City Police Department
Tien Truong Nguyen

WEST VALLEY CITY — Formal criminal charges were filed Tuesday in an 11-year-old killing of a West Valley billiards hall owner.

Tien Truong Nguyen, 37, of West Valley City, is charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, first-degree felonies.

He was also charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, stemming from a separate case. It was that case that ultimately gave police their big break for police in the murder investigation.

On Jan. 10, 2007, the body of Tri Xuan Phan, 36, was found face up in a pool of blood inside the business he owned, Vui Vui Billiards, 1829 W. 3500 South. Police say Phan was cleaning and getting ready to close for the evening when he was beaten and stabbed to death with "multiple weapons."

Phan suffered "several stab wounds" around his neck, his "skull was severely fractured," one arm was broken and the other had a large cut, he had a stab wound on his rear, and "patterned injuries to his chest," the charges state.

A "bloody metal pole" was located nearby, according to court documents, in addition to "a bloody bar stool, cleaning agent and swipe marks on the floor, and a bloody glove and rag in the sink," the charges state.

In 2007, investigators were able to lift several fingerprints from the crime scene and took samples of blood. But at the time, there were no matches in any database because Nguyen had never been arrested or convicted of a major crime.

That changed on July 24, 2015, when he was arrested in an aggravated assault investigation. Nguyen went into Valley Bowling, 3951 W. 5400 South, and became upset when he was told the bowling alley was closing early for the holiday, according to charging documents. Nguyen is accused of leaving the business and returning a short time later with a "large sword."

Nguyen's friends grabbed him and led him back out before anyone was hurt, according to police. But patrons of the bowling alley still called 911 and officers arrived just as Nguyen was leaving the parking lot.

When the fingerprint found at billiards hall was run through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System in April of 2016, this time a match was made, according to investigators.

On March 8, West Valley police interviewed Nguyen and he "made several conflicting and inconsistent statements," the charges state. At first, he allegedly claimed another unidentified man was also at the billiards hall that night.

"Nguyen stated the fight was about money, specifically gambling winnings," the charges state.

His wife later told police that when Nguyen came home, he "had scratches all over his arms and had a bag of money," according to charging documents. She told authorities that her husband said "he got into a fight with the owner of the billiards hall in order to get his money back."

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Nguyen then told his wife he needed to go back to the business because "he forgot something," the charges state. But investigators believe he actually went back to try and clean up the crime scene.

Court documents also say Nguyen claimed "Mr. Phan was still alive when he returned and that Mr. Phan grabbed Nguyen's legs and asked for help. Nguyen stated he had to fight to free himself from Mr. Phan. Nguyen stated Mr. Phan then stopping moving and breathing."

When he got back into his car, Nguyen told his wife that Phan was dead.

"She told Nguyen to call 911, but he refused," the charges state.

Prosecutors have requested Nguyen be held without bail.