The mother of a teen accused of fatally shooting his father inside the family’s Scripps Ranch home testified Friday that she is “100 percent in support of her son.”
The woman, identified in court as “Nicolette N.”, described the violent past of her late husband, Tranh Pham, 45, in detail.
Pham was shot in a bedroom of the family's home near Scripps Ranch Boulevard and Affinity Court on April 29.
Nicolette said Pham started physically and emotionally abusing her just two months after the couple first met in Orange County.
She also said her late husband mistreated the couple’s 15-year-old son, calling him “bones”, “skinny”, “weakling” and “dumb.”
She said her late husband “wanted to control everything” and sometimes physically abused their son, but when questioned by the prosecutor, Nicolette N. acknowledged that her son never said any of the minor injuries he suffered were inflicted by his father. The mother also acknowledged that she never saw evidence of a beating on her son, and never took him to the hospital because of any abuse or physical injury inflicted by the father.
She confirmed that she told detectives that she saw her husband hit her son no more than three times in the boy’s life, and that she never reported those incidents to police.
The mother also testified the teen “seemed a little detached for a time before” he shot his father, and testified that their son “was not in a state of mind to be responsible for the shooting.”
Prosecutor Mary Loeb said the boy apparently killed his father because he was angry about being disciplined. Among other restrictions, the father limited the amount of time his son could spend on the computer.
Defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge says the boy acted in self-defense, out of fear of another beating by the father.
The teenager testified on Thursday and said before the shooting, his father told him he was going to go into the garage and get something. The teen said he thought that mean he was going to get something he could beat him with and he panicked.
The boy allegedly shot his father with a loaded Glock pistol his father kept in an unlocked file cabinet in his bedroom. He testified that his father once showed him how to load and shoot the weapon.
The teen said he grabbed the gun because he had decided to run away. He said eh didn't know where he was going to go, but knew he'd have to protect himself on the streets.
Seven minutes before the shooting, the teen said his father hit him in the face.
Attridge and the teen also said the father lunged for the gun when the boy pointed it at him, and the boy reacted by pulling the trigger.
When his father lunged forward with his right hand, the teenager fired the first shot, he said in court Thursday.
"I was like 'I can't believe I shot my dad,'" he said. "And he comes back again."
"And then I fired the rest of the shots."
According to the Medical Examiner’s office, Pham was shot four times from close range. At the time of the shooting, the defendant was about 5-feet, 7-inches tall and 111 pounds.
"I had my eyes closed when I fired the rest of the shots so I just saw him drop and I knew he had passed," the teenager said.
In addition to the murder charge, the boy faces two counts of attempted murder. Those charges stem from actions he allegedly took moments after he shot his father. A video surveillance tape from a camera mounted in the family’s living room shows the boy shooting one bullet into another bedroom where his mother and brother were hiding. They were not hurt.
The teen's older brother called 911 to report the shooting, according to the San Diego Police Department.
The teen was arrested about four hours after the shooting after a witness spotted him along a street just a few miles from the condo. A handgun was found in his bag, SDPD said.
The teen is being tried for murder as a juvenile. Cases involving minors are usually closed to the public, but his trial is open because of the seriousness of the charges.
More of the teen's family members are expected to testify about the father's allegedly abusive behavior.
A family friend also testified Friday and detailed a decades-old instance of the father's alleged abusive bahavior.
“He grabbed her, pulled her back, he grabbed hold of her and body slammed her onto the concrete floor and I thought she was seriously hurt," Mike Duong said.
Under cross-examination, the teen testified that he played the game "Escape from Tarkov" for hours and that when his father shut off the WiFi as punishment, the teen would turn the WiFi back on without his parents knowing.
The defendant testified that his father kept the WiFi off until his father was home from work.