Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A 23-year-old aspiring gang member ran up to a stranger in Garden Grove and fatally stabbed him so he could earn “respect” and stature from the gang he affiliated with, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday, but the defendant’s attorney said her client acted out of fear for his life.

Daniel Perez Munoz, 23, of Garden Grove, is charged with first-degree murder for the Jan. 11, 2014, killing of 52-year-old Phuong “Bob” Huynh.

The charge includes a sentencing enhancement of personal use of a knife.

“He (Huynh) was a working man, a long-haul truck driver, and he had a family and had been with his significant other for 17 years,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray told jurors in his opening statement. “They had a child together and children from previous relationships.”

“He had the misfortune of meeting this guy who’s a little bit bigger,” Murray said, pointing to the defendant, who he said was twice the size of the victim.

Huynh was 5-foot-6 and about 130 pounds while the defendant is 6-foot-1 and about 289 pounds, Murray said.

The victim “was killed for no other reason other than this defendant wanted to show he was a bad-ass gang member — that’s it,” Murray said. “He wanted respect. He wanted street cred.”

Huynh had gone to a Walmart store to buy beer and a liquor store perhaps to buy lottery tickets when he was confronted by the defendant, Murray said.

Munoz was hanging around with friends at “The Wall,” an area at the West Creek Apartments where the group would smoke marijuana and drink alcohol, Murray said. Munoz, who was drinking from a bottle of Jack Daniels, showed up about 6 p.m. and shortly after that saw the victim, Murray said.

“He does something in gang parlance that’s called a ‘hit up,’ ” Murray said. “It’s a challenge. They say, ‘Where you from?’ That’s what he does to Bob. He hits him up and he immediately stabs him.”

Huynh was stabbed in the throat and chest and quickly bled to death, Murray said.

A witness — David Benitez — ran to the defendant and punched him for “assaulting this man in front of their children,” Murray said.

Munoz dashed back to his friends, complaining about Benitez and vowing “to get revenge,” Murray said.

“That’s what was on his mind after murdering the victim,” Murray said.

Police never recovered the murder weapon, a knife with the Playboy magazine logo on it, but a picture of a similar knife was posted on Munoz’s Facebook page and crime lab experts were able to determine the fingerprints on the hand in the image holding the knife matched the defendant’s, Murray said.

Munoz also called a friend after the killing saying he wanted to “tune up” Benitez, Murray alleged. The defendant was also angry with another friend for failing to “back him up” after Benitez punched him, Murray said.

Munoz told detectives multiple versions of what happened prior to the stabbing, Murray said.

“He’s a pretty accomplished liar” with a penchant for elaborate detail, the prosecutor alleged.

Ultimately, Munoz claimed he was drunk and went along with a transient’s idea to mug the victim, but did not stab Huynh, Murray said.

Munoz’s attorney, Kelly Rozek, said her client killed Huynh “because he believed his life was in danger.”

Munoz was the target of a “gang hit up” just before he met with his friends and Huynh was attacked, Rozek said, adding her client just walked away from the confrontation.

Munoz, who is expected to testify, appeared drunk to his friends that night, Rozek said.

The defendant, whose vision is impaired, saw someone who looked like the gang member he encountered earlier and thought he was “mad dogging” him, Rozek said, referring to gang parlance for a dirty look.

The defendant “thinks Bob Huynh is reaching for something,” Rozek said. “He thinks he’s a gang member.”

When the defendant realized what had happened later he “sobbed” heavily as he asked a friend for a ride, and  another friend had to take the phone to explain what had happened, Rozek said.

Psychologist Kara Cross is expected to testify that the defendant has an “impairment” on the left side of his brain that makes him vulnerable to poor judgment, Rozek said.

“He honestly believed he needed to defend himself,” Rozek said.

–City News Service 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.