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Two boys, 9 and 13, on life support after mom allegedly shoots them

NBC News logo NBC News 5/3/2022 Tim Stelloh and Marlene Lenthang

Two Pennsylvania boys were on life support Monday after their mother shot them in the head while they were in bed at home in a wealthy Philadelphia suburb, authorities said Monday.

The boys, ages 9 and 13, will remain hospitalized until their organs can be donated, a spokesman for the Bucks County district attorney said Monday night.

Trinh Nguyen, 38, was charged with three counts of attempted criminal homicide and one count of possession of an instrument of crime. She was accused of shooting her two sons and trying to shoot her neighbor before fleeing in a white minivan Monday morning, the Bucks County District Attorney's office said in a news release.

County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said at a news conference Monday once the boys’ organs are transplanted, “we will upgrade these charges to two counts of homicide.”

Trinh Nguyen is captured. (NBC Philadelphia) © WCAU Trinh Nguyen is captured. (NBC Philadelphia)

Nguyen was taken into custody around 11:30 a.m., about four hours after authorities responded to a 911 call from the neighbor, the district attorney's office said.

Video of the arrest captured by NBC Philadelphia showed her in what appeared to be pajamas.

According to court records, Nguyen was being held without bail.

It wasn't immediately clear whether she has a lawyer to speak on her behalf. Court records didn't list one.

According to the affidavit, authorities were dispatched to a home in Upper Makefield Township shortly after 7 a.m. when a man reported that he'd been leaving to go work when his neighbor, Nguyen, approached him with a box of photos.

Nguyen asked that he give the photos to her ex-husband, with whom the neighbor works, the affidavit says.

When the neighbor turned around, Nguyen pointed a black revolver at his face and pulled the trigger twice, the affidavit alleges. The gun didn't fire, it says.

The neighbor bear-hugged and disarmed Nguyen, who told him the gun wasn't loaded — even though several rounds were found in the chamber, the affidavit says.

After Nguyen fled and the neighbor alerted police, authorities checked her home and found the two children.

"Upon entry both boys were found still alive but in their beds with gunshot wounds to their heads," Weintraub told reporters.

Authorities released a "wanted" bulletin describing Nguyen as armed and dangerous.

She was found at United Methodist Church in Washington Crossing, a few miles east of Upper Makefield, NBC Philadelphia reported.

She was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center, “due to the indication that she was under the influence," the DA’s office said. 

It is believed that she ingested narcotics in a bid to take her own life, though Weintraub didn’t disclose what drugs may have been involved. 

“There were other evidentiary indications that she intended to take her own life but was unsuccessful,” Weintraub said. 

“I have two kids. It can’t hit any closer to home than this. I've been saying my prayers ever since I got this call this morning," Weintraub said. "It’s a very difficult image to get out of my head."

When asked if the gun was registered to Nguyen, Weintraub said: "She’s not been charged with any firearms offense so I think it's a fair assumption that she possessed that gun legally.”

Court documents show that Nguyen was in a rent dispute with her landlord Corinna Tini-Melchiondo claiming Nguyen owed over $11,000 in rent in arrears, or unpaid rent.

That case was filed in November 2021.  A judgement was entered December, Nguyen appealed but lost, and an order for possession was issued April 18, court records show. 

The Council Rock School District Acting Superintendent Susan Elliot told NBC Philadelphia she was “deeply saddened” by the shooting. 

“A tragic event is always difficult to process for all of us, especially our children,” Elliott said. “We tend to process such information in different ways and at different paces. It is not uncommon to experience difficulty eating, sleeping, or concentrating."

The district is offering support to students and staff in light of the shooting.

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