The Pennsylvania woman accused of shooting her two sons in the head this week was involved in a custody battle with her ex-husband and faced eviction, court records show.
Trinh Nguyen, 38, shot her boys, ages 9 and 13, in the head Monday morning while they were in bed at home in a wealthy Philadelphia suburb, authorities said.
The children remained on life support Thursday afternoon, said a spokesperson for Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub.
Court filings obtained by NBC Philadelphia and shared with NBC News show Nguyen and the father of her youngest son were married in 2015.
That year, the father accused Nguyen of fleeing from their home with their child and traveling to Texas. Nguyen told the father the boy wouldn’t return, NBC Philadelphia reported.
The couple officially separated, according to court documents, in February 2021 and divorced on Oct. 18.
The couple agreed to split the value of a Philadelphia home. Nguyen was to be paid $220,000 and granted monthly support payments. In addition to shared custody, a judge also granted Nguyen’s request to take their son to Vietnam every other summer, NBC Philadelphia reported.
In July, Nguyen accused her estranged husband of not complying and failing to get a passport for their child, court records said. Attorneys for her ex-husband responded by saying Nguyen had no income and had only recently begun to work by selling eyelashes online. They also said she had been evicted from the home she rented from her ex-husband’s sister, NBC Philadelphia reported.
Nguyen was described as a flight risk and a kidnapper by her ex-husband’s attorneys. They also said they feared she would flee to Vietnam and not return her son to his father after a hefty divorce payout. Nguyen’s ex-husband said he was looking to move closer to his son and was actively searching for a home in Newtown, NBC Philadelphia reported.
Additional court records filed in November show Nguyen owed more than $11,000 in rent to her former sister in-law, the station reported. The monthly payment for Nguyen’s home is $2,400, records said.
Her eviction was set for Tuesday, the day after she is alleged to have shot her two children.
A lawyer listed as representing Nguyen’s landlord couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
According to an affidavit, authorities were sent to a home in Upper Makefield Township shortly after 7 a.m. Monday when a man reported that he had been leaving to go work when his neighbor, Nguyen, approached him with a box of photos.
Nguyen asked him to give the photos to her ex-husband, with whom the neighbor works, the affidavit says.
When the neighbor turned around, Nguyen pointed a black revolver at his face and pulled the trigger twice, the affidavit alleges. The gun didn’t fire, it says.
The neighbor bear-hugged and disarmed Nguyen, who told him the gun wasn’t loaded — even though several rounds were found in the chamber, the affidavit says.
Nguyen fled in a white minivan, and the neighbor alerted police. When authorities checked her home, they found the two children.
“Upon entry, both boys were found still alive but in their beds with gunshot wounds to their heads,” Weintraub told reporters Monday.
Nguyen was charged with three counts of attempted criminal homicide and one count of possession of an instrument of crime.
Weintraub said that once the boys’ organs are donated, “we will upgrade these charges to two counts of homicide.”
Nguyen is also accused of trying to shoot her neighbor before she fled, Weintraub’s office said in a statement.
Nguyen was taken into custody around 11:30 a.m. Monday, about four hours after authorities responded to a 911 call from the neighbor, the district attorney’s office said.
Video of the arrest recorded by NBC News Philadelphia showed her in what appeared to be pajamas.
A clerk for the judge overseeing the shooting case said Thursday the office had no record of an attorney for Nguyen. A spokesperson for the county district attorney’s office said she remained in jail Thursday on no bail.
Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.
Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.