Jenna Breen update: Viet Nguyen pleads guilty in horrific hit and run

Thumbnail image for jenna breen cropped.jpg
Jenna Breen.
In August, Gail Parrish shared her frustration about the absence of a guilty plea in the January hit and run that killed Jenna Breen, her beloved daughter.

This week, however, that situation changed. Viet Nguyen, the man charged with committing the crime, finally pleaded guilty to all charges against him. "It's a huge relief," Parrish says.

Her choice of words is purposeful. Parrish certain doesn't feel happy about this turn of events, since, as she says, "the whole situation is bad. But we would have had to display things in a trial [originally scheduled for November 26] that Jenna wouldn't have wanted. And now, we won't have to go through the whole pain of that."

As we've reported, Breen was returning home at about 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning after wrapping up the late shift at her waitressing job when her vehicle was struck near the intersection of 118th Place and Sheridan Boulevard. She was ejected from the car and died at the scene.

Nguyen, the man driving the other car in the crash, allegedly scampered from the vehicle on foot, joined in flight by a companion. But neither of them got far. With assistance from a canine unit, Westminster police found Nguyen hiding behind a bush.

viet quoc nguyen mug shot.jpg
Viet Nguyen.
This wasn't Nguyen's first brush with the law. He'd previously racked up convictions for numerous drug crimes, plus theft, receiving stolen property and more. But more pertinent to Breen's family was (*correction) a previous DUI arrest.

According to Parrish, Nguyen apologized to cops as he was being taken into custody -- one reason that his apparent reluctance to plead guilty months ago was so mystifying to her.

But now, Nguyen has pleaded guilty to all six counts against him. "No plea bargains, no nothing," Parrish says.

At some point, Parrish still hopes to push for legislation to penalize passengers from fleeing the scene of a hit and run, as happened in this case -- but not right away. After all, she's still trying to wrap her head around Jenna's loss.

"It's been up and down," she says. "I never know what this journey's going to lead into, so I just go day by day, trying to be productive and trying to do the best I can. And I'm helping a lot of Jenna's friends move through things."

She also expresses compassion for Nguyen's family. "I'm sure they're hurting," she says. "This has been heartbreaking for everyone."

Nguyen is scheduled to be sentenced on December 14. In the meantime, here's a video tribute to Jenna Breen assembled by a family friend. It was shared on the Justice for Jenna Facebook page.

*Correction: Nguyen's record was initially reported to have featured three DUI arrests, not one, and our information is only now being updated. Our apologies for the error.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Jenna Breen and Tim Albo hit-and-run updates: Preliminary hearing, new legislation."

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6 comments
Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

What kind of an attorney would recommend their client plead GUILTY to everything ?

One that is on the same payroll as the D.A. !

Being a former drunk , who has remained sober w/o judgement of others , I must ask if this is worth a life sentence for Mr. Nguyen ? Going off the potential consecutive sentences he now faces following his horribly advised plea , we are talking 100+ years . Intent MUST come into question even w/ the lone prior DUI conviction . This IS a life sentence !  I seriously doubt he woke that morning w/ the decision to get drunk & kill someone . We can't afford to allow our justice system to hand out life sentences as THEY deem fitting . The horrific driving by police officers cause fatal crashes across this nation , regularly . NEVER are they held accountable . They drive DRUNK w/ POWER & ARROGANCE , knowing accountability does NOT apply to them !

20 - 25 yrs would be appropriate in this case . Not life .......

Gail
Gail

 @Juan_Leg

Mr. Leg,

It is my daughter that he killed.  What about our life sentences without her?  Has that even crossed your mind? I can assure you that his attorney is not on the same payroll as the DA.  It is now in the Judge's hands and I am hopeful that he will do the right and just thing.  Viet Nguyen may not have woken up that morning intending for all of this to happen but his decisions and actions have put him where he his. 

I'm sorry that you are upset.  All I can say is that I hope something like this never happens to you....It is the most horiffic thing a parent (and family) can go through and still survive. 

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

 @Gail  @Juan_Leg Thanks for posting, Gail, and for keeping us up to date on this tragic story. We sincerely appreciate it.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

 @Gail Mam  ,

My most sincere condolences & IN NO WAY was my comment directed towards the deceased or her grieving family . I , too have dealt with an untimely loss of life , ( a brother ) , & feel the pain from his loss DAILY !

My point was directed towards our judicial system & the many problems w/ overzealous D.A.'s , & their abuse of filings . If your daughter had been the driver , and Mr. Nguyen's was the victim , would you be DEMANDING she spends the rest of her life incarcerated ?

Panic causes people to make horrible choices . I just find it difficult to accept that Mr . Nguyen is facing the same sentence as multiple murderer , Travis Forbes or serial killer , R.P. White ....

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

 @Gail  1st off , I have never met Mr. Nguyen . I don't really associate w/ too many people that drink & zero drunks . I earned a D.U.I. in 2007 and quit drinking shortly afterwards . Furthermore , my brother left behind five additional reasons , ( children ) , why I don't drink or use drugs .

   The more I read from you , the more I wish I had grown up in a traditional home w/ both parents . My pathetic excuse for a mother bolted when I was almost eight years old . The following eight years , I served as a punching bag for a variety of foster parents .

    This wasn't the case w/ your Jenna . She spent her youth loved by parents and family . I can honestly say I would trade in a heart beat .

   Please understand my issues are w/ the entire justice system & not particularly w/ this case . It really sounds as if you are in need of someone to talk to outside your immediate realm . Should this be the case , I'll leave you with my email address & send to you my cell number by request ...

juan_leg@yahoo.com / Tyler Hawkins

Gail
Gail

 @Juan_Leg  @Gail

 Mr Leg,

 

I am very sorry for the loss of your brother.  I'm sure your journey has and is a very hard one as is now for my son who must go through life without his sister, his best friend and only natural sibling. 

 

Had the situation been reversed, as you stated in your last comment, I would not be demanding life for her nor have I ever demanded life for Mr. Nguyen.  Many other people think he should get life but that has never come from me.  However, under the circumstances and given his past record of showing he does not respect the law and the fact that he left my daughter to die on the street, I believe that he should get the maximum sentence allowed.  This was not just one night of bad decisions.  I believe that this was his lifestyle and it was just a matter of time before something horrible like this happened.  I know the number of years that a maximum sentence would bring and should the Judge decide that is appropriate, from what I am told, it would not be life. 

 

All of his charges are correct and justified in this case.  I believe the reason his lawyer advised him to plead guilty to all of the charges is because the evidence is very clear and overwhelming in this case and his best chance would be to not make us go through a trial, to plead guilty and throw himself at the mercy of the court. 

 

Mr. Nguyen had the opportunity to plead guilty at Arraignment if he was sincerely remorceful and was taking responsibility.  I felt that he was only looking for a deal at that time. There were no deals for him so trial dates were set.  He was then backed into a corner and this was his best option. 

 

If he is your friend, I'm sure this is hard for you also.  This is hard for everyone involved.  I'm sure his family is hurting.  How could they not be?  All anyone can do now is to try and learn from mistakes made and if that saves one family from going through what we have, then perhaps a glimmer of good will have come from it and perhaps Jenna's death will have saved another life and hopefully many.  My hope is that people will start thinking before they act and that friends will truely be friends and not let someone else drive drunk.  Just going along with it or encouraging it is asking for the unthinkable to happen.

 

Gail 

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