A Huntington Beach man, Chuyen Vo, pleaded guilty to special circumstances murder on Wednesday and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the killing of his co-worker, a retired Cal State Fullerton administrator. The victim, identified as Chan, was found dead in a vehicle on the campus. Vo also admitted to embezzling from the college over a nearly two-year period.
As part of the plea deal, Vo agreed to admit to the murder and embezzlement charges. In return, prosecutors dismissed a second special circumstances enhancement alleging that Vo killed Chan for financial gain. The dismissal did not impact Vo’s sentence, as he still received life imprisonment without parole.
During a preliminary hearing in 2021, a different prosecutor offered the theory that Vo killed Chan to prevent him from exposing the embezzlement. However, Vo did not acknowledge this motive in the plea deal.
Chan’s family, including his wife Margaret and his two sons Matthew and Jonathan, delivered emotional statements in court, describing Chan as a devoted husband and father. They expressed the impact of his loss on their lives, including missing out on important milestones.
Vo chose not to speak in court but acknowledged his agreement to the plea deal. His attorney stated that Vo took responsibility to spare both families the emotional toll of a jury trial.
According to previous testimony, Vo waited for Chan in a parking lot and stabbed him to death. He fled the scene but was captured on security cameras. Vo left behind a backpack containing various items, including zip ties, a knife, disguises, and a crude incendiary device. A note with an apparent “to-do list” was also found, suggesting premeditation.
During a police interview, Vo reportedly admitted to being involved in the killing, stating that something inside him had snapped. Testimony during the preliminary hearing revealed that Vo had embezzled over $200,000 from the college by using his position.
Chan, who was retired but working part-time at the campus, was believed to have been in a position to uncover Vo’s embezzlement scheme. The prosecutor argued that this may have been the motive for the murder.