weather icon Partly Cloudy

Las Vegas police step up search for suspect in nail salon death

Updated January 5, 2019 - 5:05 pm

The mother of Krystal Whipple, the woman wanted in the killing of a nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is working with Las Vegas police to locate her.

Whipple, 21, remained at large Saturday, exactly one week after allegedly hitting Nhu “Annie” Ngoc Nguyen with a stolen rental car and dragging her about 50 feet outside Crystal Nails &Spa, 4983 W. Flamingo Road.

Nguyen, 53, died of multiple blunt force injuries. Her death was ruled a homicide by the Clark County coroner’s office.

Whipple is wanted on felony charges of murder, robbery and burglary, court records show. A criminal complaint and a warrant for her arrest were filed Friday in Las Vegas Justice Court, according to the same records.

Lt. Ray Spencer, the lead homicide investigator for the Metropolitan Police Department, told the Review-Journal on Saturday that investigators were considering “all possibilities to include the fact that she may have left town.”

Whipple’s mother, according to Spencer, has agreed to speak with the media “in an effort to plead for her daughter to turn herself in,” although it had not yet been determined when she planned to address the media.

Spencer, the lead homicide investigator, hasn’t taken a day off since the killing.

“Myself, along with the investigative squad that is assigned the case, has worked every day since the homicide occurred trying to capture her,” he said.

Whipple was first identified as a suspect Thursday, after Metro released her mugshot from an April arrest and a video, including surveillance footage of the moments leading up to Nguyen’s death, that has since gone viral.

In the same video, Spencer urged the public to “please take a close look at this photo.”

“It is important we get this suspect into custody as the victim’s family and this community deserve to have her answer for this horrible crime,” he said.

The deadly encounter unfolded about 3:45 p.m. Dec. 29, after a woman had tried to pay for her $35 manicure with a credit card that was declined. According to Sonny Chung, Nguyen’s boyfriend of nearly 13 years, the woman told Nguyen that she was going to get money from her car after at least three failed card swipes.

That’s when the couple followed the woman outside to try to stop her from leaving. But the woman got behind the wheel of a stolen black Camaro, and as she took off, she struck Nguyen with the car, dragging her across the parking lot, Chung told the Review-Journal last weekend.

The video released Tuesday by police shows Nguyen jumping in front of the car, which already had begun to drive forward out of the parking lot. Chung also is seen clinging to the back of the car as it drives away from the salon.

That same night, officers had found the Camaro unoccupied at a nearby apartment complex.

The morning after, a red-eyed Chung described Nguyen as a hard worker who dedicated the last decade of her life to the business. The salon was open for 12 hours every day, but the couple often stayed well past closing hours to clean the salon, he said.

She leaves behind three daughters, ages 20, 25 and 28, and two grandchildren, ages 4 and 6.

On a GoFundMe campaign page created by her youngest daughter, Christy Le called Nguyen a “dutiful mother who always put her children first before herself.”

The money made from the salon funded Le’s college education, but Nguyen also was supporting her mother, siblings and grandchildren, “allowing them to have a greater opportunity in life,” Le wrote on the page.

The campaign had raised more than $30,000 as of Saturday.

Le said her mother worked so hard that she often skipped meals to ensure her children “would not have to work as hard as she did.”

Spencer also has urged anyone involved in a payment dispute to call police rather than take matters into their own hands.

“Do not attempt to confront or apprehend someone,” he said.

Anyone with information about Whipple is urged to call police at 702-828-3521 or, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.