Philadelphia Daily News, February 2, 1999
Lost Her Gamble, Kin Begged Slain Woman to
Leave Abusive Hubby
Son Tram never talked about her husband. How the beatings had gotten
worse in recent months since her husband began gambling and frequenting bars. But
relatives knew. They tried to persuade her to leave. The last plea came from her younger
brother, who stayed with her in her Olney row house for the last couple months. He told her
to come and live with him and his family in Florida. She refused. Last Friday, her husband
kicked the brother out of the house. Saturday morning, she was dead.
Trung Hieu Tram, 32, had bludgeoned his 35-year-old wife in the back
of the head with a hammer, police and relatives said. Their children, David, 5, and Susan,
7, heard the mother's cries from their adjacent bedroom. But they were too scared to move,
relatives said. Leaving his wife's lifeless body in their second-floor bedroom, the
husband walked next door and asked a neighbor to call police. When officers arrived at the
row house on Marshall Street near Chew Avenue in Olney, the husband told them what he had
done and was taken into custody, police said.
He was charged with murder and is being held without bail. A
preliminary hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. He told police he was angered by her poor
cooking and cleaning, police said. Yesterday, young David and Susan went to school. They
don't quite understand what happened, said their mother's aunt, Vinh Thach, who is caring
for them. They said they heard their mom screaming, "Help! Help! My husband is going
to kill me!" followed by silence.
When Thach talked with David over the weekend about where his
parents were, the boy said, "My mom went to the stars. My dad went to work."
With five young children of her own, Thach, 47, wonders how she will take care of David and Susan. She tried to temper her anger as she
awaited the chance to see Trung Hieu face to face.
She wants to know why, if he loved his children, he took their
mother away. Thach wept tears of frustration that her niece didn't listen to her pleas to
leave Trung Hieu. "I say to her 'you stay here, he kill you,' but she don't listen to
me," she said, struggling to express herself in English. "But she love
him." One of four children, Son Tram, an ethnic Cambodian, grew up working in rice
fields in rural Vietnam. Her mother died when she was very young.
She earned the equivalent of a third-grade education. In the early
1980s, she and her family fled to refugee camps in Thailand, where she lived for about six
years. She came to the United States in 1989, joining Thach, who was living in Logan at
the time. The next year, she met and married Trung Hieu, also an ethnic Cambodian from
Vietnam. They lived with Thach until 1995, when they moved around the corner to the
Marshall Street house.
Thach said her niece received government assistance and her niece's
husband worked nights at a factory outside the city. But recently, her niece had been
struggling to feed the kids, telling Thach she had no money. Trung Hieu had been spending
the family money betting on football and going to casinos, and he was going into debt,
Thach said. He would go to bars drinking on weekends, coming home and beating Son. Three
months ago, Thach gave her niece $2,000. Last Thursday, her niece borrowed $20 from a
© 1998 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.