In early March 2011, Bich Ngoc Thi Nguyen was found slain in a Vietnam apartment rented by convicted rapist and former Renton resident Timothy Doran.
According to media reports, Nguyen, 24, was found stuffed inside the closet of an apartment Doran shared with his two young sons. Her mouth was taped shut, her face severely beaten and she had been strangled.
By the time she was found, Doran, 47, was back in the United States and hiding from authorities who wanted him for a far less egregious crime: Failing to register as a sex offender. For that crime -- not the killing, perhaps never for the killing -- he faces up to a decade in prison.
Largely because the U.S. and Vietnam have no extradition treaty, it appears Doran will not face judgment in Nguyen's slaying. Prosecutors suggest he will not be returned to Vietnam after serving whatever sentence is imposed during a hearing Friday.
But assistant U.S. attorneys will present a truncated trial in an attempt to sway U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik toward imposing an exceptionally long prison term against Doran - 10 years in federal prison.
To do so, prosecutors have arranged to have a Vietnamese detective flown in to testify against Doran during the hearing. They also expect to call a man who claims Doran admitted to killing Nguyen during a frantic phone call around the time of the killing.
Prosecutors note the alleged killing is the latest in a decades-long series of allegations against Doran, who was previously convicted of raping a woman before leaving her tied up in an apartment filling with natural gas.
"Over the last 20 years, Doran has committed a succession of ever-more appalling violent crimes against women, ranging from assault to rape and now to murder," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Werner and Andrew Friedman told the court.
"Doran's history," the prosecutors continued, "shows that he is a dangerous predator, who likely will hurt again."
A self-described gigolo who claimed to investigators to have had sex with "hundreds of women," Doran has denied killing Nguyen while contending he fled Vietnam to protect himself and his children from an unspecified threat.
Doran's first recorded attack on an intimate partner came in 1990, when he twisted his then-wife's ankle until it snapped during a beating that also saw Doran drag a kitchen knife across the woman's throat. For his crime he was sentenced to 10 months in jail; a six-inch metal plate and several screws were needed to repair the woman's ankle.
Fresh from jail and living in Buckley in April 1992, Doran attacked another woman after she attempted to break up with him.
Enraged, Doran blew out the pilot lights in the woman's stove and raped her as her home filled with gas. With her two young sons in an adjacent room, Doran described in detail how both boys would die as he attempted to break the woman's legs.
Doran then stuffed several sexual aids into the woman and tied her up before fleeing the home. She untied herself and was able to summon help. Doran was ultimately convicted of second-degree rape and served six years in prison before he was released in 1998.
The woman later provided the court with a letter describing Doran as a changed man. That assertion came as Doran and his then-wife were divorcing in 2009, prior to Doran's flight to Vietnam.
Facing divorce, Doran underwent a lie detector test during which he denied ever harming anyone during sex. According to test results provided to the court by his defense attorney, Doran claimed to have worked as a gigolo for two years after being approached by a West Seattle woman; he also claimed to have had sex with "a couple hundred" women.
Writing the court, the prosecutors noted Doran's ex-wife claimed he beat her and threatened to stab her on several occasions. Nonetheless, Doran was awarded partial custody of their two children.
Doran left the United States in mid-2010 without updating his sex offender registration. Prosecutors claim he attempted to hide his departure from U.S. authorities.
Once in Vietnam, Doran met Nguyen. Press reports indicate Doran was working as an English teacher at the time, and there are conflicting statements as to what kind of relationship existed between the pair.
Doran hurriedly left Vietnam in March 2011. Six days later, Nguyen's partially decomposed body was found in Doran's apartment.
Returning to the United States, Doran worked in Montana and North Dakota before surrendering to authorities in December 2011.
Asking that Nguyen's slaying be considered in sentencing Doran for failing to register as a sex offender, the prosecutors acknowledge that Doran is unlikely to ever be tried in Vietnam for the killing. They went on to claim both Doran's history of violence against women and the evidence against him show him to be her killer.
"Doran's murder of Nguyen confirms what Doran's earlier convictions for assault and rape suggested," Werner and Friedman told the court. "Doran is a violent predator who poses an extreme danger to any woman with whom he becomes involved."
Doran admitted to killing Nguyen in conversations with two friends, both of whom are expected to testify at Friday's hearing, the prosecutors said in court documents. A Vietnam police officer who investigated the crime scene is also expected to appear before the court.
Largely ignored in the United States, Nguyen's apparent murder and Doran's flight from the country made news in Vietnam. Nguyen's family and supporters have asked that Doran be extradited, though no framework currently exists to send a U.S. citizen to face a Vietnamese court.
"The crime was committed in Vietnam," Nguyen's sister said in a letter published on several English-language news sites in Vietnam. "It is only fair and right that Doran faces the Vietnamese judicial system.
"Please understand that what we seek is not vengeance, but basic justice that everyone deserves, regardless of who they are or where they are in the world."
Asking that his client be sentenced to no more than two years in prison, defense attorney Nicholas Marchi argued it would be improper for a court to consider Nguyen's slaying when sentencing Doran. To do so would deny Doran's due process rights, Marchi said. Beyond that, Marchi noted Doran was last convicted of a violent crime in 1992.
"Mr. Doran has paid for his prior crimes," Marchi told the court. "Since his release he has had no other arrests or convictions. He has led a law-abiding life taking care of his children."
Prosecutors have asked for the maximum term available under federal law, an unusual step. Defendants usually face a punishment within a range of sentences determined by a federal board; the statutory maximum term is rarely reached.
But, Werner and Friedman argued in court documents, the rape and murder make Doran an exceptional defendant deserving the max.
"Doran has progressed from violent assault to vicious rape to gruesome murder," the prosecutors argued. "Doran appears not to have learned from any of the crimes, or taken any steps to reform. Rather, he has simply become ever-more violent."
Doran is scheduled to be sentenced Friday morning in U.S. District Court at Seattle. He remains in custody.