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Early Life

We couldn't find much on Nhan's life in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. He was a former lieutenant colonel in the Republic of Vietnam Military Forces (QLVNCH). In 1981, he and his son left the country by boat and first settled in Modesto, California where he was employed at a winery. Although the wage was decent, the job was too laborious for him so he moved his family to Virginia and started working as a layout designer for for Văn Nghệ Tiền Phong (VNTP), a divisive newspaper serving the local Vietnamese population in Arlington.

Văn Nghệ Tiền Phong (VNTP)

His job at VNTP was to design the layout of the newspaper and to add diacritics to the text. Once the editor in chief approved articles, Nhan would add the Vietnamese accent marks onto the words. The originals were then sent to be printed. Nhan would trimmed the prints to size and assembled them into an efficient layout onto a large piece of canvas. Once a layout is deemed ideal, the trimmed sheets are then fed through a wax coater and then pasted on the canvas. The canvas was used as a template for the final bulk copies. Before Nhan was employed at VNTP, the atmosphere at the publisher was already acrid. The office had been fire bombed and Nguyen Thanh Hoang, the newspaper's director and his own daughter, barely escaped. Frequently, the office received hostile phone calls. There were multiple lawsuits due to its publishings. Nhan's job was not directly related to the political values of VNTP. He was not directly involved with writing or deciding which stories got to be printed. Unfortunately, the newspaper's many enemies thought otherwise.

Murdered By Association?

On Wednesday, November 22, 1989, a sanitation worker was emptying trash bins in the Seven Corners neighborhood and discovered Nhan's lifeless body in his Datsun 200-SX, parked in the driveway of his dwelling. He was shot eight times. Ballistic showed the killer had used 0.389 caliber bullets from an auto loading handgun. Investigators suspected his murder was carried out on Monday. The assailant must had known where Nhan lived, the times that he return or leave for work, staked outside his apartment, and took him out cold.

Do Trong Nhan. Photo Credits: Propublica
Reporter Don Bolles Killed in His car Credits: The Republic
Reporter Don Bolles Killed in his car.
Photo Credits: The Republic

If politic was the motive, then Nhan's unexpected murder was most shocking. He was not a writer. His only misfortune was working for VNTP and therefore associated himself with LÊ TRIẾT, a contentious figure working for the publisher. According to Sơn Tùng, a former employee at VNTP, a detective from the Asian Crime Unit visited VNTP and hypothesized that Nhan's killing was a warning from "Phở H", which stood for Phở Hòa, a Vietnamese beef noodle restaurant chain that The Front (An Anti-Communist Extremist Group) had used to fund its operations. Whoever killed Nhan thought he was an influential figure in the newspaper or they wanted to use his death as warning to the publisher to stop with the offensive writings.

Could this Pho Hoa Noodle Soup which started in 1983 was the business that collected donation for The Front?
Could this Pho Hoa Noodle Soup which started in 1983 was the business that collected donation for The Front?
The Front's Flag
The Front's Flag

Another former employee named Tạ Quang Khôi stipulated that Nhan might have been a mole for The Front and was eliminated because he didn't do what his handler wanted him to do at VNTP. This was just what he thought. Till this day, no one knows who killed him or if he lost his life due to political disagreement between his employer and its enemy.

Basic Information

  • Name: Đỗ Trọng Nhân (Nhan Trong Do)
  • Age: 56
  • Pen Name: N/A
  • Publisher: Văn Nghệ Tiền Phong (VNTP)
  • Publisher Column: N/A
  • Cause of Death: Gunshot wounds inside car.
  • Date of Death: 22-11-1989
  • Location: Fairfax, Seven Corners, Virginia
  • Kin: Son
  • Top Suspects: VOECRN, The FRONT (Mặt Trận) through their kill squad called Khu 9, or Communist Spies

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