Episode 074: Kristy Nguyen & Quoc Tran

April 3, 2023

A young couple suddenly vanishes, leading to an international manhunt and a quest for justice. What happened to Kristy and Quoc?

Episode Media
Kristy Nguyen and Quoc Tran
Ultra Garden Supply in Vaughan, Ontario (Google Maps)
Office complex at 111 Zenway Boulevard (Google Maps)
Alley behind Ultra Garden Supply (Unit 6) at the office complex (Google Maps)
Delivery truck “vehicle of interest” spotted behind office complex on Sept 18, 2021 (York Regional Police)
Phuong Tan Nguyen (York Regional Police)
Recaldo Liburd (York Regional Police)
Twin Creeks Environmental Centre where Quoc’s body was found (CBC)
Aerial view of the landfill (Google Maps)
Distance between the office complex and the landfill (Google Maps)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a case out of Canada, one that unfortunately has very little information but seems to be on the brink of finding resolution. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

In the fall of 2021, 25-year-old Kristy Nguyen and her 37-year-old boyfriend Quoc Tran were living and working in the city of Vaughan, Ontario. About 30 miles outside the capital city of Toronto, Vaughan is a bustling, diverse city with a large Asian population. Kristy and Quoc were part of the vibrant Vietnamese community in Vaughan, and they enjoyed spending time with their large extended families in the area.

Kristy was a bright young woman with big dreams for the future. She graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2018 with a degree in Psychology, and went on to complete the paralegal diploma program at Seneca College in Toronto. In 2019, she interned at a local law firm, which solidified her desire to become a lawyer. She then moved into managing the family nail salon, but Kristy told her family that she eventually wanted to move to England to get her law degree.

Quoc also had big dreams. He owned and operated Ultra Garden Supply, a hydroponics equipment store in downtown Vaughan. Quoc had opened the store during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it had somehow found its niche among gardening enthusiasts in the community. Billed as “Your local specialty gardening supply store,” Ultra Garden Supply had started to collect quite a few positive reviews from customers. Quoc wanted to grow the business and someday expand into other markets.

The couple was doing well financially, and they were planning to get married in the near future. In keeping with Vietnamese culture, Quoc had asked Kristy’s family for permission to marry her, and both families were preparing to meet together to make wedding arrangements.

Tragically, that day would never come.

On the evening of Saturday, September 18, 2021, Kristy and Quoc were expected at a family gathering. But as the hours passed and they didn’t show up, the family grew increasingly concerned. Neither of them were responding to texts or calls, which was very unusual – they were always punctual, and they would have let someone know if they were running late. The family eventually reached out to the York Regional Police and filed a missing persons report.

After a few days of searching and coming up with few leads, the police released a statement on September 21st seeking assistance from the public. They announced that Kristy and Quoc had last been seen in the neighboring city of Markham near Highway 7 and Warden Avenue at approximately 4:50pm on September 18th. The statement said, “It is out of character for the couple not to contact family. Investigators are growing increasingly concerned for their well-being.”

Constable Maniva Armstrong with the York Regional Police told CTV News that they were treating the couple’s disappearance as suspicious. “Because of the circumstances involved in this situation where it’s very unusual and out of character for them not to have any communication with family members or be located, there are some concerns in the early stages that this could be suspicious in nature.”

As tips began to pour in, investigators continued to search for the missing couple, combing through CCTV footage and phone data, and piecing together a timeline. Again, law enforcement has released very little information to the public, but I’ll lay out what we do know so far.

According to statements made by York Regional Police in the days and weeks following their disappearance, Kristy and Quoc were planning to attend a family gathering on the evening of Saturday, September 18th. At 4:50pm, they were spotted near Warden Avenue and Highway 7, an area with a shopping complex and hotels nearby. It’s possible that they may have been picking up a few last-minute items for that night’s gathering.

After that, Kristy and Quoc drove back to Vaughan and stopped at Ultra Garden Supply. The shop was closed on Saturdays, but it’s not that unusual for a business owner to stop by their own store after hours. Police stated that Kristy and Quoc were last seen there at 5:30pm.

Ultra Garden Supply was located in the 6th unit of a large office complex on Zenway Boulevard. Each rental unit had two floors as well as access to warehouse-style loading docks in the back of the building. There were security cameras facing the front parking lot and the back alley. Investigators knew that the cameras would be crucial to solving this mystery.

On September 27th, York Regional Police closed down the office complex so they could conduct a thorough search of the property, including all the dumpsters in the immediate area. One shop owner told the Markham Economist & Sun that officers removed every trash bin and combed through the contents. He also said that they asked shop owners to turn over any surveillance footage they might have from September 18th.

One of the surveillance cameras captured something that piqued investigators’ interest: a large white delivery truck spotted behind the building around 11:30 the night of September 18th. What was a delivery truck doing there so late at night, when all the businesses were closed? Did the driver of that truck know something about Kristy and Quoc’s disappearance?

On September 28th, ten days after the couple vanished, York Regional Police made a devastating announcement: Kristy and Quoc were believed to be deceased, the victims of a targeted attack.

Investigators revealed that Kristy and Quoc were likely killed at the office complex on the evening of September 18th. They released images of the white delivery truck, calling it a “vehicle of interest” and asking the public to call in with any information.

They also announced an arrest warrant for 35-year-old Phuong Tan Nguyen, who they believed to be responsible for the deaths of Kristy and Quoc. Despite sharing a last name with Kristy, investigators stated that Phuong, known as “Mike”, was not related to her. Nguyen is the most popular Vietnamese surname, so it’s not as much of a coincidence as one might think.

However, there has to be some connection between Mike and Kristy and Quoc if police believe it was a targeted attack. But they didn’t offer any further explanation, presumably to protect the integrity of the investigation. All they said was that the suspect was considered armed and dangerous and had likely already fled the area.

Just as the news was making the rounds in the media, York Regional Police made another announcement: a second suspect had been arrested. Thirty-six-year-old Recaldo Liburd had been charged with two counts of accessory after the fact of murder. Tips from the public had led to his arrest, and it was believed that he was the driver of the white delivery truck.

With one suspect in custody and another on the run, investigators didn’t have time to waste. They continued to actively search for Kristy and Quoc, leaning on CCTV footage to track the path of the delivery truck. Thankfully, it wouldn’t be long before they had their next lead.

On October 1st, police announced that they had recovered the body of Quoc Tran at a landfill in Watford, two hours away from Vaughan. Investigators believed that Kristy’s body would eventually be found in the same location.

Unfortunately, months passed with no update. Kristy was still missing, and the primary suspect was a fugitive from justice. Finally, in January of 2023, York Regional Police held a press conference to update the public on the investigation.

Investigative Services Superintendent Rhonda Corsi spoke with the press, saying that investigators believed Quoc had died from a gunshot wound. She could not confirm whether Kristy had died in the same manner, since her body had still not been found. However, she assured the press that they had sifted through every inch of the Twin Creeks Environmental Centre in addition to a landfill across the border in the United States.

When reporters asked how investigators were so sure that Kristy was dead if her body had not been found, they responded that there was evidence of her death, but because the case had not yet gone to trial, they couldn’t reveal any more details.

Police also spoke about Phuong Tan Nguyen, aka “Mike”, their main suspect. Superintendent Corsi confirmed that Kristy and Quoc knew their killer, but would not say what the connection was. Mike was last seen boarding a plane to Mexico on September 22, 2021, just days after the murders. The York Regional Police are currently working with Mexican authorities to find him, and if he is indeed in Mexico, he will likely be extradited back to Canada to face trial.

Police are also partnering with the Bolo Program, a Canadian initiative that leverages technology and social media to find wanted fugitives. Through the Bolo Program, York Regional Police are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Phuong Tan Nguyen.

At the press conference, York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween spoke about Kristy and Quoc and how their tragic deaths have affected the community. “The targeted and vicious attack on Mr. Tran and Ms. Nguyen shocked our community and their loved ones. And we’ve been working tirelessly since then to find Kristy and bring their killer to justice.”

He also read a letter from Kristy’s family in which they spoke about her vibrant personality and the joy she brought to her family. “It’s very difficult for us to speak about Kristy in the past tense because many days we simply cannot believe she’s dead… How could it be that our beautiful, reliable, smart, ambitious Kristy is no longer here? How could it be that somebody chose this for her? Kristy vanished nearly one year and four months ago. Every day since has been filled with anguish… All the remarkable things that she could have been were stolen from us…. We don’t know why she needed to die but we do know that at least one person out there has the answers we so desperately need for any chance of peace.”

If you have any information about the deaths of Kristy Nguyen and Quoc Tran or the whereabouts of Phuong Tan Nguyen, known as Mike, please contact Crime Stoppers of York Region at 1-800-222-TIPS or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com. Let’s find justice for Kristy and Quoc.