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The former assistant night manager of an Alameda Safeway store was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering two men he owed money for gambling debts. Andrew Toon Wong, 24, was convicted in August of two counts of first-degree murder plus the special circumstance of committing multiple murders for killing cookie deliveryman David Wells, 62, of Oakdale on July 31, 2008, and Quang “John” Quach, 36, on April 3, 2009. Prosecutor Autrey James said Wong owed them a total of about $9,000 in debts over sports bets that he lost. James said Wells was a bookie and Quach was a friend of Wong’s who was an intermediary for another bookie.
Laetitia Presant, a friend of Wells, said, “This was all so unnecessary and sad.” Presant said Wells “was generous to a fault and even though Andrew owed him money he wouldn’t have collected it and would have told him to pay when he wanted.” Presant said of Wong, “I’d like to see him hung high on the nearest tree.” Wong, who looked straight ahead while Presant and other family members and friends of Wells and Quash spoke, didn’t speak at his hearing. Neither did about 20 family members and friends who came to court to support him.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman said murder defendants usually don’t have numerous family members who regularly come to court to support them or who can pay for “an outstanding defense lawyer” such as Tim Pori, who represents Wong. Goodman said, “You had all that, Mr. Wong, and you squandered it by engaging in two tragic acts. Your family will lose you for the rest of your life and this case is more tragic than normal tragedies.” James told jurors in his closing argument in Wong’s trial that Wong admitted in phone calls to his mother and a friend that he committed the two killings but then lied to police by claiming that he was innocent.
The prosecutor said Wong expressed his intent to kill by saying, “I’m going to take him out” in one message and asking a friend in another message, “Would you rather owe money to a bank or to someone you can kill?” The prosecutor said Wong told a friend in a third message that, “I’ll shoot someone if I keep losing.” Pori admitted in his closing argument that Wong “bragged, boasted and chatted that he had committed the homicides” but he said he believed there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he actually carried out the murders.
Pori said Wong “lived in a fantasy world and played too many video games” but his friends didn’t buy the tough-guy image he was trying to create. He said Wong “made dramatic statements but no one ever believed his tales of murder and mayhem.” Wong was the assistant night manager at the Safeway store at Alameda Towne Centre, where Quach worked the overnight shift as a stocker in the frozen foods section. Quach was shot inside his home in the 600 block of Foothill Boulevard in Oakland on April 3, 2009. Wells, who delivered cookies to the Safeway store in Alameda, was found slain in a parking lot near Oakland International Airport on July 31, 2008. Both victims were shot in the head.
Police recovered about three-dozen guns when they arrested Wong in April 2009 and searched the home on Shannon Circle in Alameda, where he lived with his parents. Linda Tucker, a friend of Wells, said his nickname was “Okie” and “he was a wonderful person who would give you the shirt off his back.” Quach’s younger brother, Michael Quach, said Quach’s death at the hands of Wong “was an incredible betrayal from someone who he considered to be a friend.” Michael Quach said Wong “cowardly shot him in the head in his own home.”
Quach said, “Andrew has made this into a never-ending nightmare for all of us. He’s a monster who deserves to be in prison the rest of his life.” Wong could have faced the death penalty but the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office chose to seek life in prison without parole instead. Goodman sentenced Wong to two terms of life in prison without parole to be served concurrently plus an additional 50 years to life for using a gun to kill Wells and Quach.
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