Jenna Breen's mom frustrated by delayed justice in hit and run that killed her daughter

In January, Jenna Breen was killed in a hit and run, allegedly by three-time DUI offender Viet Nguyen.

The case is still winding its way through the court system, and its slow pace is frustrating for Gail Parrish, Jenna's mom, who continues to struggle with the terrible loss.

Nguyen was in court for his arraignment last week, "so I had to gear up to go see him again," Parrish says. "There are no deals for him -- absolutely none -- and he's still in jail. But he's not ready to plead guilty to all the charges, and I am just so furious at his audacity."

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.

"When he was first caught in the bushes, he was saying how he was sorry -- I guess to the police," Parrish notes. "And now, to not plead guilty just tells me he's not really sorry. He's just sorry he got caught. He waived his right for a preliminary hearing, but the defense asked for the bond to be reduced, and I had to go in there and talk to the judge and ask that it not be."

The bond amount stands at $250,000; Nguyen remains behind bars.

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 are his three DUI arrests in the prior six years, with the most recent one resulting in the revocation of his drivers license.

The track record likely contributes to the case against Nguyen, which Parrish says is vast. "There are things the DA's office isn't even going to let me see," she says, "and I haven't seen the police report, which is over 300 pages long."

The next hearing for Nguyen, involving assorted motions, is scheduled for October 12, Parrish reveals, with a pretrial hearing to follow on November 21 -- "the day before Thanksgiving," she says with some chagrin -- and the trial itself expected to begin on November 26.

Parrish, then, appears to be looking at months more of waiting. But loved ones are helping her through the process.

"The support system has been tremendous. People have just come out of the woodwork: her friends, family, people I don't know but who can relate as a parent, or if they've lost children. Because honestly, this is an incredible animal, and unless you've been through it, it's something you can't imagine. You've got to force yourself to keep going, force yourself to be productive every day, and sometimes it's really hard. My son, I feel so bad for him: He's 27, and he and Jenna were best friends...."

Parrish, for her part, finds that even mundane activities often have a different meaning now. "I got the phone call about Jenna in the grocery store," she says. "so just a simple thing like going to buy groceries took a little getting used to again. There are so many things you wouldn't think would be issues that you've got to work through, day by day. It's been horrific."

She adds that "for him to put us through all that -- and to still be putting us through that -- is just unbelievable."

Here's a video tribute to Jenna Breen assembled by a family friend. It was recently re-shared on the Justice for Jenna Facebook page.

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