SEATTLE — The death of 21-year-old Angelina Tran, who was allegedly stabbed over 100 times by her stepfather Nghiep Kein Chau on Aug. 7, opens the conversation about domestic violence homicides and the personality types of abusers.
Court documents said this murder appeared to be the result of anger at Tran for intervening in the stepfather's attack on her mother at a house in Seattle's Beacon Hill Neighborhood. Chau is charged with first degree murder and attempted murder. His arraignment has been pushed back for medical reasons.
"We do generally see when the person who intervenes is a member of the family, that is perceived as particularly threatening, as particularly egregious behavior and needs to be stopped," said Dr. Deirdre Bowen, who is the director of Seattle University's Family Law Center and specializes in domestic violence cases.
She said Tran's death supports an unfortunate statistic about domestic violence homicides.
According to the American Journal of Public Health, 20% of the homicides that occur during domestic violence are from not the abuser to the victim, but instead to a third party who is intervening.
The impact of these homicides goes beyond just the family.
"By far, the greatest lethality and risk of death to a police officer occurred when they showed up to a domestic violence call," Bowen said.
Additionally, Bowen said it's important to identify an abuser. She cited the book 'When Men Batter Women' written by two University of Washington psychology professors, Neil Jacobson and John Gottman. Tran was a student at the University of Washington.
The book said there are two types of abusers — Pit bulls and Cobras.
"Pit bulls engage in power and control, but when the legal system is involved, they step down, accept their fate and perhaps go look for a new victim and it doesn't result in lethality," Bowen said.
Bowen said people classified as Cobras are a scarier population.
"When the Cobras were engaging in the abuse escalating in physical abuse, they saw their heartrate go lower, they saw their blood pressure reduce, they actually became calmer as they engaged in this power, control behavior."
Court documents show that Tran's intervention allowed her mother to escape to a nearby bedroom and call 911. During that time, Tran was attacked multiple times.
"It is a devastating story of how absolutely frightening domestic violence can be," Bowen said.
Bowen said it's an impossible situation, but the best option is escaping to a more public area.
"The difficulty is that Angelina in this case is watching her mother be beaten so badly that this person is clearly attempting to kill her mother," Bowen said.
UW engineering professor Julie Kientz said in a statement that Tran was a superb student, very enthusiastic about design research and she will be greatly missed. The university said it has counselors available for students, staff and faculty.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, text START to 88788 or visit thehotline.org for additional guidance and resources.
Visit the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence website for additional local resources.