"Who Killed My Daughter" The Story of Kaitlyn Arquette
Interview: Lois Duncan
"Who Killed My Daughter"
The Story of Kaitlyn Arquette
Editor's Note: JCFR has been covering insurance fraud stories since 1994. The one story that has most gripped our reading audience is the Kaitlyn Arquette story. No matter where I go or who I run into, someone will invariably ask me if Lois Duncan ever got the answer to her question, "Who Killed My Daughter?"
I first met Lois Duncan at the 1995 Texas International Association of Special Investigation Units annual seminar. (She'd been asked to fill in at the last minute for the scheduled dinner speaker, Texas Governor George W. Bush.) No matter what Bush was intending to say, he could not have come close to Lois Duncan. She spoke for about 45 minutes, and when she finished there was no movement, no applause, no nothing. In those long seconds of wondering why the audience was unresponsive, she had no idea that 300 big brawny investigators had been so stunned by the emotion behind her presentation that they were rendered wholly speechless.
JCFR has followed the case since the first article we wrote in 1995. Lois has become both a friend and a hero to me. While I have kept pace with the story, as it twists and turns through and beyond what we knew at its beginning stages, many of you continue to call and ask me questions, obviously no more able to let go of this emotionally charged case than I am. What follows is an interview, in October 2007, with this amazing woman.
LK: Lois, please forgive me as I jump around. I know that what we once considered an easy case that simply needed to be proven has emerged to be anything but easy. Can you please start by giving me a short summary of what you believed the answer to your question was in 1995, at the time we initially covered Kait's story in the JCFR? (insert story link here)
Lois: Our daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette, 18, was in the process of breaking up with her Vietnamese boyfriend, Dung Nguyen, when she was chased down in her car and shot to death in Albuquerque, NM. After the shooting, one of Kait’s girlfriends told us that Kait had confided to her that Dung and his cronies were involved in car wreck insurance fraud. They would be paid $1,500 to fly to Orange County, CA, where they would rent cars and stage wrecks. Kait had witnessed one of those wrecks and had met Bao Tran, the capper who set it up. Tran, a paralegal, worked at the Garden Grove office of Minh Nguyen Duy (aka Minh Buy Nguyen; aka Duy Minh Nguyen), an attorney who specialized in personal injury cases.
When I was paying Kait’s final phone bill, I discovered calls to Bao Tran, made from Kait’s supposedly unoccupied apartment as soon as she was pronounced dead.
We assumed her knowledge of the car wrecks was the motive for her murder. But we’ve now come to believe that insurance fraud was the tip of the iceberg.
LK: What did you do when the Albuquerque Police Department shut down their investigation and dropped off the unsolved case?
Lois: I’m a professional writer, so I used the only weapon in my arsenal – I wrote a book called “Who Killed My Daughter?’. Its purpose was to motivate informants and prevent the facts of Kait’s case from becoming buried. The book threw me onto the talk show circuit – “Good Morning America”, “Larry King Life”, “Sally Jessy Raphael”, etc. -- and tipsters began to contact us with information. The activities that various members of Dung’s group were involved in stretched out in all directions like a gigantic spider web, extending from coast to coast.
LK: What sort of activities were they?
Lois: Drug dealing; arson; smuggling; computer chip theft; Oriental porn; illegal gambling; illegal naturalization; car theft – you name it, and there were people in that group who were into it. But the worst shock came when we realized that some of those activities were protected by a group of rogue cops in Albuquerque. One of those cops, APD Officer Matt Griffin, was arrested one week prior to Kait’s murder and is currently serving a life sentence for multiple bank robberies and murder of a witness. We’ve been told by an honest cop, (who, for obvious reasons, doesn’t want to be identified), that certain members of Dung’s group were stealing get-away cars for Griffin to use for his robberies. When he told us that, it became clear that our naive daughter had stumbled into a cesspool and insurance fraud had been only the scum on the surface.
LK: What’s the most recent piece of information you’ve received?
Lois: A few months ago we were contacted by a woman who had worked with Kait at an import store where Kait was clothing manager. Dung and his friends were at that store all the time, allegedly “visiting Kait.” Kait’s co-worker told us that, shortly before the shooting, the co-worker discovered a package of heroin in a box of Oriental fans. She suspected that some of Dung’s friends might be intercepting heroin deliveries on the loading dock and this particular box slipped past them. If Kait found out about that and it was the cause of her break-up with Dung, that would have been a very strong motive for her murder.
LK: I know little about heroin, but do you think that one package was part of a much larger shipment? And, if so, what kind of money are we talking here?
Lois: I feel sure that a larger shipment was en route. Immediately after Kait’s murder, the new girlfriend Kait went to visit that night, (who drew Kait a map to route her down the street where the killers lay in wait for her), applied for Kait’s job at the import store. She also persuaded the manager to hire her boyfriend to work on the loading dock. They worked for about 10 days and then stopped coming in. They didn’t even pick up their paychecks. With Kait gone, Dung and his friends no longer had an excuse to hang out at that store. We speculate that the “girlfriend” may have been assigned to intercept a shipment that already was on route.
In 1989, the year of Kait’s death, high purity white heroin from Asia was worth almost twice as much as black tar heroin from Mexico, which is common in New Mexico. According to the International Association of Asian Crime Investigators, smuggling was rampant at that time. Heroin was being shipped in clothing, statuary and pottery and even sewn into the stomachs of dead goldfish. And those shipments usually were delivered by UPS.
LK: With multiple crimes being committed in multiple states, did the Feds ever take interest or open their own investigation?
Lois: We’d love to have an answer to that question. Kait’s co-worker, who found the heroin, reported her find to the FBI, and agents came to her home and seized the package. So they knew back then what we didn’t learn until recently -- that drug smuggling was taking place at that store. You would think that Kait’s high profile murder a few weeks later would have been a red flag for them. Yet, they didn’t do anything.
Later, when we contacted the FBI to ask for their help, they told us they couldn’t become involved because murder is not a federal crime.
In 1997, we had an attorney submit a FOIA request to the FBI for all records concerning and/or captioned “Kaitlyn Arquette.” He requested a response within 10 working days, as provided for in the Freedom of Information Act. No response.
He continued to send certified letters and finally, two years later, received a form letter saying there were 1,245 pages of material labeled “Kaitlyn Arquette” and asking if we were willing to pay for their duplication. The attorney said yes. Six months later they sent us 61 pages. Everything on those pages was blacked out except for quotes from letters that I had sent to them.
LK: 1,245 pages is a lot of material for the feds to have about a case that they had no interest in.
Lois: The FBI has their own agenda. Kait’s murder may have gotten in the way of something else they were working on.
LK: Have there been times that you have felt that the investigation of Kait's murder was intentionally stifled?
Lois: Not at first. Like most middle-class Americans, we had total faith in “The System”, although we couldn’t understand why APD refused to consider the Vietnamese suspects, especially since Dung was phoning people, hysterically telling them, “Kait’s dead! They shot Kait!” three hours before police “woke him up” to inform him.
But, private investigation has opened our eyes to the fact that a cover-up started at the scene when a violent crimes detective – ignoring a bullet-shattered car window and a blood-drenched girl lying prone across the front seats – radioed in a report of an accident with no injuries. His statements and those of the second officer at the scene are a tangle of contradictions, and neither took information from the first person at the scene, a man who had a long record of violent attacks on women. Both officers and that unquestioned man left the scene before rescue arrived. The medics who transported Kait to the hospital have stated in an affidavit that they almost missed the scene because there was nobody there to wave them over – no cops or police cars – just Kait, all alone in her car, up against a post, with two bullets in her head. They said, “The place was deserted. It was so quiet it was eerie.”
LK: Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the APD, to this very day, maintain that this was a "random drive-by shooting," despite massive evidence to the contrary?
Lois: Yes, but that’s understandable. They have faith in their colleagues. Most of the detectives involved in the initial investigation have retired or been forced out of the department, but they’ve left behind a legacy of lies and deception that new recruits have bought into. All information that points to anything other than “random shooting” has been purged from Kait’s case file. The transcript of a taped interview has been altered to reverse its meaning. Photos from a second-day work-up that could document the fact that the PIT technique was used to force Kait’s car off the road and the hole in the door frame was made by a larger caliber bullet than the ones that fragmented in Kait’s head have disappeared from the photo lab. The manager of the lab is totally bewildered. She tells us, “I don’t understand it! We don’t have any of the things we ought to have!”
LK: This has been one of the longest unsolved murder cases revolving around, even peripherally, organized automobile insurance fraud. Is there ANYTHING, at this juncture in time, that would assist you. Anything that investigators or adjusters can do, or keep their eyes open for, or ... anything?
Lois: You never know where important information will come from. Claims investigators in Southern California have been our strongest allies. In the course of interviewing suspects about unrelated crimes, several have stumbled upon information about Kait’s case that has been invaluable. Since the APD has no interest in our new information, we’ve placed it all on the Internet. I hope your readers will visit Kait’s Web site at http://kaitarquette.arquettes.com and familiarize themselves with the case. That way they’ll know what to look for.
LK: If any of our readers has information that they'd like to turn over to you, how should they do that?
Lois: They can contact me from Kait’s Web site. Or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lois: Insurance fraud is considered by many to be a “victimless crime” and therefore comparatively unimportant. But it seldom exists in a vacuum. Often the same players who orchestrate fraudulent car wrecks are orchestrating other criminal activities as well. It’s common for specialists in one particular area of investigation to develop tunnel vision. Please, don’t let that happen to you. Be on the alert for what may lie beneath the tip of the iceberg.
LK: The hardest question of all: Do you still hold out hope that you will get your answer to that question posed so many years ago -- "Who Killed My Daughter?"
Lois: Actually, our hopes have increased, because time is our ally. Loyalties change. Lovers become bitter ex-lovers. Frightened people find courage. Lost people find God.
There are people who know what happened, and, like Kait’s father and me, those people are aging. Each time they look in the mirror – or color the roots of their hair, or detect a lump in the breast, or experience a pain in the chest – they become aware of their mortality.
It won’t be terribly long before they have to face Kait.
That can’t be a pleasant thought for them.
© Copyright 2007 The John Cooke Fraud Report