Jenna Breen update: Viet Nguyen pleads guilty in horrific hit and run

In August, Gail Parrish shared her frustration about the absence of a guilty plea in the January hit and run that killed Jenna Breen, her beloved daughter.

This week, however, that situation changed. Viet Nguyen, the man charged with committing the crime, finally pleaded guilty to all charges against him. "It's a huge relief," Parrish says.

Her choice of words is purposeful. Parrish certain doesn't feel happy about this turn of events, since, as she says, "the whole situation is bad. But we would have had to display things in a trial [originally scheduled for November 26] that Jenna wouldn't have wanted. And now, we won't have to go through the whole pain of that."

As we've reported, Breen was returning home at about 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning after wrapping up the late shift at her waitressing job when her vehicle was struck near the intersection of 118th Place and Sheridan Boulevard. She was ejected from the car and died at the scene.

Nguyen, the man driving the other car in the crash, allegedly scampered from the vehicle on foot, joined in flight by a companion. But neither of them got far. With assistance from a canine unit, Westminster police found Nguyen hiding behind a bush.

This wasn't Nguyen's first brush with the law. He'd previously racked up convictions for numerous drug crimes, plus theft, receiving stolen property and more. But more pertinent to Breen's family was (*correction) a previous DUI arrest.

According to Parrish, Nguyen apologized to cops as he was being taken into custody -- one reason that his apparent reluctance to plead guilty months ago was so mystifying to her.

But now, Nguyen has pleaded guilty to all six counts against him. "No plea bargains, no nothing," Parrish says.

At some point, Parrish still hopes to push for legislation to penalize passengers from fleeing the scene of a hit and run, as happened in this case -- but not right away. After all, she's still trying to wrap her head around Jenna's loss.

"It's been up and down," she says. "I never know what this journey's going to lead into, so I just go day by day, trying to be productive and trying to do the best I can. And I'm helping a lot of Jenna's friends move through things."

She also expresses compassion for Nguyen's family. "I'm sure they're hurting," she says. "This has been heartbreaking for everyone."

Nguyen is scheduled to be sentenced on December 14. In the meantime, here's a video tribute to Jenna Breen assembled by a family friend. It was shared on the Justice for Jenna Facebook page.

*Correction: Nguyen's record was initially reported to have featured three DUI arrests, not one, and our information is only now being updated. Our apologies for the error.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Jenna Breen and Tim Albo hit-and-run updates: Preliminary hearing, new legislation."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts