Father wants to shake fugitive task force leader's hand after men accused of killing son were caught

Mycah Hatfield Image
Friday, July 14, 2023
Officials were told double murder fugitives could be gone for years
Eyewitness News speaks with the father of one of the men who was killed in cold blood over what police say was a debt. The two fugitives wanted in the case are in custody.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Less than six months after a double murder of friends in the Timbergrove area, the suspects in the case are back on U.S. soil.

Polie Phan and Jaiden Vu Nguyen were taken into custody by authorities in Vietnam, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

The men were flown to San Francisco, where they are awaiting extradition back to Harris County on capital murder charges.

SEE MORE: Houston fugitives captured in Vietnam 5 months after 2 men killed

They are accused of killing Dana Ryssdal, 35, and his friend James Martin III, 37, on Jan. 27.

Ryssdal's father, Dante Concetto, said his son was in Houston from Oregon visiting his friend like he had many times before.

The two were said to be commercial marijuana farmers from southern Oregon, where it is legal.

During the visit, both men were shot several times.

Martin's neighbors called police after noticing a Toyota Prius idling inside his open garage off of West TC Jester.

Houston police arrived and found Ryssdal dead inside the home. Neither Martin nor Ryssdal's truck was there.

The Prius was towed to the Houston Police Department impound lot for evidence collection. But three days after the murders, Martin's body was discovered in the back of the vehicle bound by duct tape.

Weeks later, investigators announced Phan and Nguyen as the suspects in the murder. Police believe Phan owed Martin money.

Kathy Vu, who is accused of helping her boyfriend, Phan, clean the scene of evidence, was also charged. She was arrested in March and has since made bond.

Authorities announced that they believed the men had fled to Vietnam.

The news was disheartening to Concetto, who said he spoke to people who have waited decades for their family members' killers to be captured abroad.

Kim Bryant, the unit manager of the fugitive apprehension section inside the Harris County District Attorney's Office, was given the job of locating Phan and Nguyen.

"Pretty much immediately after they fled, law enforcement was on their tail looking for them," Bryant said.

She added the case became a priority for her team because of the egregious nature of the killings.

They worked alongside several local agencies, as well as the U.S. Marshal's Service and the authorities in Vietnam to locate and capture Phan and Nguyen.

"We were told it could take years before we get them back and it ended up being about three months," Bryant said.

Through the course of their investigation, Bryant said they learned the men went to Vietnam shortly after the murders but did not leave the country at the same time. One man was found in Ho Chi Minh City and the other was found in a jungle, according to Bryant.

She would not say exactly how the men were tracked down but said there are many resources available.

"It's almost hard not to be tracked in some way shape or form," Bryant said.

When Concetto got the news that the men were in custody, his wife burst into tears and he "let out a whoop and a holler."

"It's been five and a half months, so I mean I prayed for that every day," Concetto said over FaceTime from his home in Idaho.

He said his son was his best friend and was one of the "better human beings you'd ever want to meet."

Ryssdal planned to move closer to his father at some point so the two could spend time together.

"We had a lot of common interests and now that's gone," Concetto said. "I don't know how I make up for that."

Concetto is grateful to the HPD detectives on the case, Bryant, and everyone else who had a hand in returning Phan and Nguyen to the U.S.

He said it is a weight off his shoulders knowing they are in custody, even if it is only one step in the journey to justice.

"I'd like to meet the woman that's the head of the fugitive task force next time I come to Texas, so I can shake her hand, and if she'd allow me, I'd buy her a steak," Concetto said.

He plans to be present at the upcoming court hearings. There is no timeline on when Phan and Nguyen will be returned to Harris County.

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