2 men wanted in murders of Heights-area roommates flee to Vietnam, attorney says

(L to R): Jaidan Vu Nguyen, 25, and Polie Phan, 26 (KPRC)

HOUSTON – Two men accused of murdering a pair of businessmen who owned an out-of-state marijuana dispensary have fled the United States, according to an attorney of a co-defendant in the case.

Polie Phan, 26, and Jaidan Vu Nguyen, 25, are charged with capital murder. Investigators say they killed Dana Ryssdal, 35, and 37-year-old James Gerald Martin III over drug money.

Phan’s girlfriend, Kathy Vu, has been charged with tampering/fabricating physical evidence. She was arrested on March 16 and her bond was set at $40,000. Court records show she posted bond on Friday.

Prosecutor Samantha Knecht spoke outside a Harris County courtroom Tuesday following a hearing for Vu, who was forced to surrender her passport.

RELATED: Woman arrested, 2 men wanted in murders of Heights-area roommates who operated legal out-of-state marijuana dispensary

“We believe she assisted by helping clean up the location of the murders and purchasing items like bleach and Clorox and those types of things to help get rid of any evidence,” Knecht explained.

While Vu is here to face charges for her alleged connection to the case, her boyfriend and his friend are on the run.

“The two defendants that are currently charged with capital murder, we believe, both have fled the country and are living internationally right now,” Knecht said.

Vu’s attorney, Coby DuBose, said he does not want this case to be “tried in the media,” and stressed that his client is not a flight risk.

“These individuals have fled to Vietnam. My client has not, she’s showing up in court. She hired me when the search warrant was served on Feb. 3,” DuBose said. “She’s known that the police wanted to talk to her, so I’ve been around. She didn’t flee this jurisdiction. Her passport - they are worrying about surrendering that - that thing expired in 2020.”

What happened

The investigation, filled with many twists and turns, began on Jan. 27 when Houston police officers were dispatched to the 1700 block of West TC Jester in reference to a “welfare check.”

A person told officers that his neighbors’ dog had been heard barking late into the night, and the next morning, he noticed a car had been running for an extended period of time in the garage, which was out of the ordinary. The neighbor said, after he went to check on things, seeing no one inside the running vehicle, he peered into the home and, once noticing blood, backed out immediately.

Upon arrival, officers entered the open garage, where a Toyota Prius was still running with the windshield wipers engaged.

Officers then entered the home through an unlocked door leading from the garage and found blood on the walls and a man lying face down in a large pool of blood. The man, later identified as Ryssdal, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Next to Ryssdal’s body were several cardboard boxes filled with marijuana packaged in airtight wrapping, investigators said.

“He did nothing, other than walk in the wrong door at the wrong time,” Ryssdal’s stepmother Connie Concetto told KPRC 2. “It’s devastated the family. We still are having a really tough time just wrapping our arms around that idea that he’s gone.”

Concetto said Ryssdal had only been in Houston for a few days and she learned from investigators that her stepson had just returned from the gym and was ambushed as he walked in on the suspects ransacking his roommate’s home.

Officers called for backup, and when more officers arrived at the scene, they discovered even more boxes of marijuana in various places throughout the home.

They also found a door to the closet under the stairs had been broken and forced open, and the attic above the second story had also been left open. There were firearm projectiles throughout the residence.

In the freezer, officers found bundled stacks of cash, totaling $35,980.

HPD then put out an alert that Martin, the friend and roommate who started as Ryssdal’s business partner, was missing.

Investigators said the two men were commercial marijuana farmers who operated a legal dispensary in southern Oregon.

“For him, he looked at it as the new Google,” Concetto said about Ryssdal. She described him as an entrepreneur who wanted to be on the ground floor of the trade in Oregon.

Martin, a native Houstonian, had recently decided to move back to Houston and was allegedly in the process of selling the out-of-state dispensary.

It was also said that the missing man, Martin, was the owner of the Prius and Ryssdal had a white Ram 3500 pickup, which was also missing.

Three days later, on Jan. 30, the pickup was located in the 6900 block of Cullen Boulevard, but there was still no sign of Martin.

On Feb. 1, officers discovered Martin’s body in the trunk of the Prius, which had been towed to a storage yard for evidence processing. The body had been in the trunk since the vehicle was discovered at the home, but no one checked it at the scene.

Investigators said Martin’s feet, ankles, and hands had been bound with duct tape, which was also wrapped around his head and face.

The deaths of both men were ruled homicides due to multiple gunshot wounds.

Through the use of the “Find My iPhone” app, investigators were able to track down the victims’ cellphones, which were located in the water of White Oak Bayou, near TC Jester.

Through extensive research, investigators were able to obtain surveillance video and phone records that linked Vu to the crime.

Investigators said it appeared Phan owed Martin money, which may have led to the deadly shootings, but during interrogation, Vu said it was the other way around.

Vu claimed Martin actually owed her boyfriend $40,000 after “a narcotics-related transaction did not go as planned,” according to documents.

Detectives said Vu told them Martin had threatened a lot of people, including her boyfriend, and in her opinion, “if anything were to have happened, it would definitely have been self-defense.”

Investigators believe Martin was lured to the parking garage at Vu’s apartment complex and was possibly killed at that location. The vehicle was then driven away, and Vu got busy with her part of the coverup. Detectives recovered a grocery store receipt showing that Vu purchased items including bleach, peroxide and trash bags to help wipe away physical evidence.

Charging documents summed Vu’s alleged involvement, stating that the boyfriend “communicated with defendant Vu before, during and after the capital murder in preparation for utilizing her garage and luring Martin into said garage to commit the murder.”

Houston Police are asking anyone with information about Phan or Nguyen’s location to call Crimestoppers.

“These were guys that really loved their families,” Concetto said. “That’s the most important thing, that they found out who did this and that they would be held responsible.”

About the Authors:

Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.