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 She Lost Her Gamble, Kin Begged Slain Woman to 
 Leave Abusive Hubby
The Philadelphia Daily News, February 2, 1999

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 friend

1998 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.