Trial of teenage killer opens in northern Vietnam

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A court in the northern province of Bac Giang on Tuesday opened the trial of a 19-year-old boy who killed three family members to rob gold last August.

The trial of Le Van Luyen, who killed Ngoc Bich Gold Shop owners Trinh Van Ngoc and Dinh Thi Chin, and their daughter, attracted huge public attention.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the office of Bac Giang Province People's Court to witness the trial.

On Aug. 24, 2011, when it was raining, Luyen snuck into the Ngoc Bich Gold Shop with two knives. He fatally stabbed Ngoc, Chin and their 18-month-old daughter. He also cut off the right hand of Trinh Ngoc Bich, the couple's eight-year-old daughter, and slashed her arm and head.

Bich later had her hand re-attached and has recovered.

Luyen collected all the gold in the shop, which had an estimated value of  VND1.2 billion (US$57,100).

One week later, he was arrested at Na Hinh, a border village near China in the northern province of Lang Son.

Luyen has been charged with "murder, "robbery" and "abusing credibility to appropriate properties."

According to prosecutors, Luyen borrowed the motorbike of Truong Van Nhi, his aunt's husband, and pawned it for VND5 million (US$240). He later bought a mobile phone and went to Hanoi to hang out with his friends.

When he returned home, he formulated the idea of staging a robbery to have get money for the bike.

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Six people, including Luyen's father, aunt and cousin, are also charged with aiding and abetting Luyen.

Following Luyen's arrest, several local news web sites quoted sources as saying Luyen may not face the death penalty or a life sentence, because he was not 18 years old at the time of the murder.

Under Vietnamese law, an offender cannot be sentenced to death or to life if he or she is less than 18 years old.

Luyen was born on Oct. 18, 1993, and he committed the murders on Aug. 24, 2011, which means he is two months shy of his 18th birthday.

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