Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2019

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Footage, fingerprints helped authorities ID suspect in manicurist’s death

Krystal Whipple

Metro Police

Krystal Whipple

There was little to no doubt Krystal Whipple would land in jail. At least that’s how Metro Police Lt. Ray Spencer put it a few days ago.

“She’ll turn up. It’s just a matter of when,” he said, confidently hashing out a similar statement Thursday.

The “when” arrived less than 24 hours later early Friday, when Whipple, 21 — accused of mowing down a manicurist with a car while trying to skip out of paying for a treatment — was nabbed in Arizona.

Whipple was found about 285 miles from Ngoc Q. Nguyen’s Las Vegas salon — the scene of the fatal Dec. 29 encounter.

A fugitive task force here received information on Whipple’s whereabouts and passed it along to the FBI in Phoenix, which made the arrest in Glendale, Ariz. Further details on what led them there were not immediately available. It wasn’t clear how she got there.

Metro spokesman Officer Jay Rivera said investigators had received “a lot” of tips from community members, thanking them. The case garnered national media attention.

The next step is Whipple's extradition to Nevada, Rivera said, noting police could not release more details. But a copy of an arrest warrant released Friday does shine a light on how she was identified as a suspect.

Fingerprints

On the fateful day, the suspect arrived at the salon in a stolen Chevrolet Camaro with a busted back window, police said. After Nguyen applied acrylic nails on her, Whipple tried to pay with several fraudulent credit cards, police said.

But the $35 payment would not go through, police said, and the suspect said she would grab some cash from her car.

Nguyen, who also owned the business, and her boyfriend ran outside when they noticed the client driving away, police said. The victim stepped in front of the car, while the man grabbed hold of the back of it.

That’s when the suspect floored it, dragging the couple through the parking lot and fatally injuring Nguyen, who died at University Medical Center, police said.

The suspect then ditched the Camaro at a nearby apartment complex, police said. Early on, detectives learned that the car — a rental — had been stolen using fraudulent information.

Furthermore, the slaying was caught on video, and there also was footage of the suspect ditching the car. The images matched with records from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

That evidence and fingerprints found inside the car gave detectives a name: Krystal Whipple, a woman with a history of arrests in cases involving fraudulent credit or debit card usage and attempted possession of a stolen vehicle, according to court records.

Surveillance footage from a car dealership — recorded hours before Nguyen was slain — reaffirmed to detectives that they were searching for the same suspect. A receipt found in the Camaro led detectives there, and a woman matching Whipple was seen on video conducting a transaction.

The vehicle she arrived in at the dealership also had stolen plates, police said.

National attention

Four days after the killing, Metro publicly announced they were searching for Whipple, releasing her name, photo and the dramatic footage from the incident.

The footage quickly spread online, landing the story on national media, where outlets rehashed details of a tragic tale: a mother of three daughters who was killed over a $35 manicure.

Soon, Whipple’s mother appeared on ABC News, in tears, pleading with her daughter to turn herself in.

At the salon on Jan. 2, Nguyen’s daughter described her mother as the rock of her family. Her death “made me realize how dependent we are on her. Even today, we’re all older, we’re all adults and we all depend on her,” she said. “Now that she’s gone, we have to step it up.”

And they did, reopening the salon to help provide for their mother’s employees, said the daughter, Anne Trinh.

Among sorrow, life went on.

The distinctive scent of acetone filled the location that afternoon while nail technicians serviced a couple of customers.

Nguyen’s young grandchildren scampered around, while their grandmother’s station sat empty, multicolored acrylic nails resting on her table.

If the yellow police tape that remained on the front door didn’t indicate a tragedy had occurred there, the memorial that had materialized at the entrance did.

Fresh carnations, orchids, roses and candles decorated the shrine. A framed photo of Nguyen sat in the center.