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Deal struck in murder case
Last-minute agreement sentences man to 25 years

LAWRENCEVILLE - A judge sentenced Nghia Trong Tran to 25 years in prison Tuesday for shooting an Alabama woman to death in front of her husband and infant son two years ago.

Tran struck a last-minute deal with prosecutors who were prepared to go forth with his murder trial this week. The deal allowed Tran to plead guilty to a lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter, freeing him from a potential life sentence.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, bringing his sentence total to 25 years.

Maggie Benson, Assistant District Attorney, said Tran could be eligible for parole, though prosecutors would oppose it.

Tran admitted to shooting Bien Son, 30, an Asian woman from Alexander City, Ala., before turning the gun on himself in a Lawrenceville cul-de-sac near his family's home in August 2006.

Tran was hospitalized in critical condition but survived. The victim died on scene, as her husband, Duy Pham, attempted to revive her.

The victim and her husband had come to Gwinnett to confront Tran because he was in love with the woman, much to her husband's chagrin, neighbors said at the time.

Benson, the prosecutor, said she agreed to the plea only with Pham's approval. She was prepared to present about 20 witnesses and felt strongly that Tran would be convicted of murder.

"The husband was the only eyewitness to the case, and so I gave him all options," Benson said. "It's clear that there was a relationship between the victim and Tran - to what extent, we do not know."

Tran's attorney, Matt Crosby, said his client suffered significant injuries and had no recollection of shooting himself or Son, which complicated matters.

"This was an extremely challenging case to prepare for trial," he said.

The plea deal, Crosby said, lent an "amicable conclusion" to the case and spared Son's family from reliving the incident.

Witnesses told police Tran was standing with the victim and her husband outside their car when Tran brandished a handgun and fired.

The victim's husband was unharmed. Her 2-year-old son, who was asleep in the back of the car during the shooting, also was unscathed.

Tran will remain without bond at the Gwinnett County Jail until he's transferred to a state prison.