Bay City News Service—The former assistant night manager of an Alameda Safeway store was convicted Wednesday of two counts of first-degree murder for killing two men to whom he owed money for gambling debts.
Jurors deliberated for two days before reaching their verdict against 23-year-old Andrew Toon Wong of Alameda, who now faces life in prison without parole when he's sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman on Nov. 30.
In addition to convicting Wong of the two murder counts, jurors found that he was guilty of the special circumstance of committing multiple murders.
Prosecutor Autrey James said Wong killed cookie deliveryman David Wells, 62, of Oakdale, on July 31, 2008, and Quang "John" Quach, 36, on April 3, 2009, because he owed them a total of about $9,000 in debts over sports bets that he lost. James said Wells was a bookie and Quach was a friend of Wong's who was an intermediary for another bookie.
James told jurors in his closing argument on Monday that Wong admitted in phone calls to his mother and a friend that he committed the two killings but then lied to police by claiming that he was innocent.
The prosecutor said Wong expressed his intent to kill by saying, "I'm going to take him out" in one message and asking a friend in another message, "Would you rather owe money to a bank or to someone you can kill?" The prosecutor said Wong told a friend in a third message that, "I'll shoot someone if I keep losing."
Wong's lawyer, Tim Pori, admitted in his closing argument that Wong "bragged, boasted and chatted that he had committed the homicides" but he said there's insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he actually carried out the murders.
Pori said Wong "lived in a fantasy world and played too many video games" but his friends didn't buy the tough-guy image he was trying to create. He said Wong "made dramatic statements but no one ever believed his tales of murder and mayhem."
Wong was the assistant night manager at the Safeway store at South Shore Center (then called Alameda Towne Centre), where Quach worked the overnight shift as a stocker in the frozen-foods section.
Quach was shot inside his home in the 600 block of Foothill Boulevard in Oakland on April 3, 2009. Wells, who delivered cookies to the Safeway store in Alameda, was found slain in a parking lot near Oakland International Airport on July 31, 2008. Both victims were shot in the head. Police recovered about three-dozen guns when they arrested Wong in April 2009 and searched the home on Shannon Circle in Alameda, where he lived with his parents.
Wong, who was guarded by six bailiffs, looked straight ahead and didn't show any emotion when the jury's verdict was announced. Pori patted him on his back to console him.
Wong, who was dressed in black pants and a gray blazer, waved to his parents as bailiffs led him out of the courtroom.
Pori said he respects the jury's verdict but he still believes that Wong's incriminating online comments weren't corroborated by the evidence in the case.
"The egregious nature of what he (Wong) said in the online chat logs and the fact that he made admissions on the days that the victims were killed are why he was convicted," Pori said. "It was very difficult for the jury to acquit him under those circumstances."
Wong could have faced the death penalty but the Alameda County District Attorney's Office chose to seek life in prison without parole instead.
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