US man's flight from Vietnamese justice: what role did embassy play?

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A photograph taken by Khanh Hoa investigators of the crawlspace closet where Ngoc's battered corpse was discovered.

On March 28, the US Attorney's Office flew a Vietnamese investigator from Khanh Hoa Province to Seattle.

The following morning the officer testified that a convicted sex offender named Timothy George Doran, 47, assaulted and murdered a young woman in his rented home in Nha Trang two years ago.

According to the facts presented by the detective, a friend took Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, 24, to Doran's five-story house in the beach town on March 5, 2011.

The following day, Doran left the city with his two young sons. A little over a week later, the pretty young hairdresser's decomposing corpse was discovered in a crawlspace cabinet.

The landlady later told Vietweek that Ngoc had been violently penetrated with a dildo found at the scene. The US Attorneys currently  prosecuting Doran claims she was strangled to death. Media accounts of the Khanh Hoa investigator's testimony said she died from a broken neck.

In the frantic days after the murder, Doran called friends and family asking for cash to get home.

"He said he'd gotten mixed up with some bad people and he

was in trouble," said Kay Furin, 67, a church friend who described Doran as a loving father. "He needed five or six thousand dollars to get he and his sons home; I told him I didn't have it."

Doran did not respond to a list of questions sent to his attorney before press time.

Prosecutors say Doran also called an acquaintance, an ex-girlfriend and his sister and told them he killed Ngoc (and an unidentified male accomplice) as they were breaking into his house to protect his two sons.

One of them called the US Embassy and told them Doran needed help getting out of Vietnam. What role the US State Department played in aiding Doran's flight remains shrouded in sealed court documents. According to a spokeswoman from the US"ˆAttorney's Office, they will become available once the trial is complete.

In the meantime no one at the embassy is willing to talk about what Doran or his friends told them in the days after the killing.

"We cannot speculate on someone's guilt or innocence absent full and transparent due legal process," wrote spokesman Christopher Hodges, declining to reveal what State Department officials knew and when.

 
Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, 24, was found murdered in a crawlspace closet in the rented Nha Trang home of Timothy George Doran. US prosecutors claim he admitted to killing Ngoc in frantic calls made to friends and family. One of them notified the US"ˆEmbassy of Doran's predicament before he left the country with his two young sons.  

What is clear, however, is that no one arrested Doran upon his return to Seattle. He spent nine months traveling freely to different states. "I renewed my driver's license, medical card, TSA endorsements, business license, federal tax ID, opened bank accounts in Washington and North Dakota, [and] purchased a car," he stated in a hand-written appeal to the judge. "I did all of these things in my own name. At no time did I run and hide."

Doran is not on trial for Ngoc's murder, a murder that federal prosecutors argue he certainly committed.

Instead, he is on trial for being a convicted sex offender who failed to notify his sheriff before leaving Washington State. He's already pleaded guilty to that crime, which normally carries a sentence of between one and two years. At the moment, prosecutors are trying to convince a judge to give him 10 years for his parole violation.

"It appears that the government wants to conduct a murder trial without a trial," Doran's attorney argued in an October filing.

Despite the lack of an extradition treaty between Vietnam and the United States, Doran could be sent back by a direct order from the Secretary of State. But that option seems unlikely to ever happen, which leaves everyone to wonder why a sex offender with a violent criminal history was allowed to take two children to Vietnam in the first place.

"How did he even get a passport?" asked Brenda Giacco, Doran's last confirmed victim.  "How did he get on a plane with his kids and go over there? And how the hell did he fly back into the [US] and just walk around for all those months?"

Giacco dated Doran until April of 1992. Their relationship soured after he read her diary and became angry over passages about her ex-husband. When Giacco tried to break things off one night, he flew into a rage.

When she tried to call the police, Doran ripped the phone off of the wall, assaulted her and forced her to give him US$96 from her purse. Then, he took her to a bank and forced her to withdraw another $200.

Next, Doran took her back home, blew out the pilot lights on the stove, turned up the gas and began to violently penetrate her with a vibrator as she cried. While he assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Doran described how she and her children (who were asleep in the next room) would die slowly and painfully from the gas filing the house.

As he did all of this, he twisted her legs and discussed breaking her bones, according to an affidavit filed by a Pierce County Prosecutor.

 
A photograph taken by the Khanh Hoa police and presented to the US Attorney's Office of Timothy George Doran's rented house, where Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc's corpse was found. According to the landlord, police discovered a sex toy at the scene and signs that Ngoc had been assaulted with it. Doran had used such items in previous assaults on women.

Later, Giacco managed to untie herself and run to a police station. When police arrived at her apartment they found her young sons asleep in a house stinking of gas. Upon his arrest, Doran claimed the gas had leaked out of a malfunctioning furnace.

A jury decided otherwise.

He served six years in prison for rape in the second degree.

Giacco claims that Doran returned to their small town in Washington State and moved two blocks from her house.

"No one notified me," she said. "My kids just saw him one day coming back from the supermarket."

Giacco later learned that, prior to dating her, Doran had served time for a vicious assault on an ex-wife where he twisted her foot until her ankle snapped and slashed her throat with a knife.

"He beat her to the point that her bottom teeth were embedded in the roof of her mouth," Giacco said.

(Doran has attributed these acts to a "steroid abuse problem" that he has since resolved).

In 2005 Doran's attorney showed up at Giacco's door with a statement to sign. It alleged that Doran had become a changed man and they were now on friendly terms. The statement, Giacco says the lawyer told her, would be submitted to the US consulate in Ho Chi Minh City so Doran could get the future mother of his children a visa to America.

Giacco says she signed the character statement fearing that, if she didn't, further harm might come to her and her children.

"I feel horrible," she said via telephone. "I don't know how he's manipulated the system for so long."

Doran has cited Giacco's character endorsement as part of his vigorous defense.

Since his arrest, he has filed numerous depositions and sworn statements attesting to his excellent character and qualities as a father.

The defense exhibits include certificates from anger management courses, a letter from a psychiatrist and restraining orders Doran filed against an ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend, seemingly as evidence that he has given up beating women.

"I have a very good reputation as a kind, caring, friendly family man by all those that know me," he wrote in a hand-written letter addressed to the federal judge who will now decide his fate. 

 

In the letter, Doran claimed that his parents beat him with everything from iron skillets to coaxial cables for the duration of his young life.

"My whole childhood ["¦] I was told I wasn't wanted, I was worthless and any display of emotion was only to disguise the sexual abuse," he wrote. 

But Doran is a hard man to believe.

During his divorce from the mother of his children, Doran submitted a polygraph test wherein he said he'd never been sexually abused. Instead, he claimed a robust heterosexual life that began at age 10 and grew to include hundreds of consensual female partners.

In the same interview, Doran claimed he spent two years working as a paid gigolo in Seattle.

(American news outlets have since taken to calling him the "Renton Gigolo Rapist").

The polygraph technician noted that Doran appeared to be falling asleep at various points during the test. Doran claimed he was just very hungry, but the administrator suggested his dulled response could have been a reaction to some sort of medication. Even still, he noted, Doran exhibited no signs of deception.

Last Friday, Doran  requested extra time to review the materials the Vietnamese authorities have presented against him. He has also filed a motion in which he demanded, among other things, the return of all of his personal property.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 23.

Giacco, Doran's last known victim, said she felt sorry for Ngoc's family and terrible that her statement continues to be used as evidence.

"I wish they'd just send his ass back to Vietnam," Giacco said with a sigh.

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