SALEM, Mass. — Thu Nguyen was tortured in a slave camp, escaped from Vietnam by boat, and then survived gastric cancer only to meet his death while delivering a bogus Chinese food order to a Lawrence housing project on July 30, 2009.
Yesterday, Daniel Lee Lopez, a 24-year-old father of four, was found guilty of Nguyen’s involuntary manslaughter and will spend the next 15 to 18 years in state prison. Jurors also found Lopez guilty of unarmed robbery but acquitted him on the most serious offense of first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence in prison.
Lopez’s accused accomplice, Ronny Ramos, 20, was found not guilty of unarmed robbery and larceny charges. Just after noon, Ramos walked out of Salem Superior Court a free man.
Nguyen’s wife and children sobbed and held one another as the verdicts were read yesterday, bringing the week-long trial to end.
“There are no words to be used to describe my family’s feeling of sorrow and suffering,” Nguyen’s daughter, Candy, said as she addressed the court before Lopez was sentenced. “Why did you do that to my dad? ... He was a very nice man. He was peaceful.”
Her father made tips of 50 cents to $1 on food orders he delivered. He used that money, and anything else he made, to help her attend Merrimack College. Her dad encouraged her to stay in school until she got her doctorate, she said.
Candy Nguyen asked how someone could be “so cruel and so brutal,” allowing her father to be suffocating, having a seizure, with foam coming from his mouth, and “go though his pockets?”
“With all the hardship he survived it’s been so difficult for my mother to understand the way he died,” Candy Nguyen said.
Prosecutors alleged Lopez and Ramos called the Evergreen Restaurant at 105 S. Union St. that night and placed a bogus Chinese food order with the intent of stealing the food and robbing Nguyen.