Crime & Courts

Online friends heard shots fired in double homicide from hundreds of miles away

Six hundred miles away from Wichita, a Houston man playing video games in an online group apparently heard the gunshots that killed a Wichita man and his mother this past weekend.

This is his story:

It was a Saturday night video game with three to four players engaging online up to thousands of miles apart, with one in Canada. They could hear, but not see, one another.

One of the players dipping in and out of the gaming that night was Cody Ha, a 23-year-old Wichita man, who lived with his mother, 62-year-old Huong Pham. Another player was Ashley Martinez of Houston, Texas. The players are friends.

It was around 10 when Martinez said he and the others heard popping noises, so loud it hurt his ears under the headphones. The players started asking one another whether they were gunshots. They heard at least two shots from what sounded like a handgun.

They thought they might be overreacting, “because you don’t expect to hear that,” Martinez said.

The players called Ha’s number. The could hear it ringing and ringing.

Wichita police identified Huong Pham, 62, and Cody Ha, 23 who were found dead late Saturday on the 7500 block of East Huntington.

Martinez said he could hear Ha’s sister finding the bodies. “She was panicking. … she was on the phone. She said she didn’t want to touch them. She said she didn’t feel safe.”

Early the next morning, Martinez said, he and a friend had a online chat with a Wichita police detective so they could share what they heard. “We told him exactly what we heard on our end.” The detective said he would let them know if investigators needed anything else.

A second person who frequently played video games with Ha said that sometimes Ha’s playing was interrupted by someone at the front door.

Tommy Ong, a longtime friend of Ha’s, said Ha told him during the games that people traveled to the house on Huntington to buy prescription drugs.

Police said that Ha’s sister returned home late Saturday night, and found her brother and mother covered in blood and unconscious. Police have not disclosed a possible motive and are seeking tips to help solve the crimes.

Neighbors who live near the house where Pham and her son were slain said they noticed different cars frequently arriving and leaving from the house. “There was definitely more traffic there than anywhere else in the neighborhood,” one neighbor said. The neighbors asked not to be identified, citing safety concerns.

The house is on the south edge of the Rockwood neighborhood, a tightknit neighborhood north of Towne East mall that is known for its oak-lined streets, private swim club and neatly kept mid-century homes.

Ha – the 23-year-old son – is listed in property records as the owner of the home, in the 7500 block of East Huntington. The house is appraised at $233,500. The son, the daughter and their mother have lived at the address for at least 10 years, court records show.

Ha worked days at his mother’s dry cleaning business and played video games through the night, said Ong, Ha’s longtime friend.

The two young men joined in video games through an online group. The men played from different locations, but through the audio, Ong sometimes heard the doorbell ring at Ha’s house.

Ha would stop playing long enough to go to the front door. “Just give me a few minutes,” Ha would say, according to Ong.

Ha would say it was someone wanting to buy prescription meds or tablets, Ong said. It happened as recently as last week. Ha said his mother gave him a share of the proceeds, Ong said.

Ong said that he and Ha had been friends since they were children. Ha went to Southeast High School and worked in the family business, which has multiple dry-cleaning stores, Ong said. Ha mainly worked at the store on Harry near Hillside, Ong said.

Ong described Ha as easy-going. “Never seen the guy get mad.”

But Ha’s mother, Pham, has had conflicts with other people, according to Sedgwick County District Court records. It’s not clear whether those conflicts, described in court documents, had anything to do with her and her son’s deaths.

In February 2014, Pham received a temporary protection-from-stalking order when she alleged that another woman threatened her “after I talked about the money owed my family” and that the woman “hired somebody to cause me harm for $2,000.” Around the same time, someone broke windows in the family’s stores and slashed tires on her son’s car, Pham wrote in a petition.

A couple weeks before Pham sought her protective order, the woman Pham had accused alleged in a separate stalking petition that two men said “Huong Pham sent them … looking for me & and my husband. … I tried to contact Huong Pham to tell her I didn’t owe money.”

Both women’s petitions were dismissed within a couple months after no more violations were alleged, court records show.

In 2009, Pham was accused of stalking a woman, but a judge found insufficient evidence. In 2008, Pham had accused the same woman of stalking her.

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