911 operator hears man kill wife, self Tape reveals woman saying spouse wanted to commit suicide

April 03, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

As a Howard County dispatcher listened on 911, a 31-year-old Columbia man loaded a gun and killed his wife and himself shortly after 1 a.m. yesterday.

Moments before, the dispatcher heard Xuang Ky Tran of the 4900 block of Columbia Road calmly ask his wife: "What have I done? Why did you lie to me? I told you! I told you! I told you!"

The next voice on the 911 recording replayed by police last night -- is that of his wife, 31-year-old Maria Delores Rivas: "Stop it! No! No! No!"

Her screams are followed by a rapid pop-pop. Two gunshots.

And then silence.

One minute and 41 seconds later, police kicked down the door of the couple's second-story condominium at the Heatherfield development, just off the 18th tee at the Fairway Hill Golf Course near Route 108 and Columbia Road in Dorsey's Search village.

Inside, police found Ms. Rivas lying face down on the bed in the couple's bedroom. She had been shot once between the eyes with a .357-caliber Magnum. The phone dangled near the floor.

Mr. Tran lay face up on the bed next to Ms. Rivas. He had been shot once in the face with the same weapon.

Police believe Mr. Tran killed his wife of six years and then himself. The couple had no history of domestic violence, police said.

Police released the contents of the 911 tape last night. In it, Ms. Rivas indicates that her husband is about to commit suicide. Her 1: 19 a.m. call opens with the couple in the middle of an argument and Ms. Rivas saying: "Come on! Don't do it, Tran."

The connection is suddenly broken. And the dispatcher, whom police have not identified, immediately redials.

"What's happening?" the dispatcher asks.

"My husband has a gun. He purchased it today. He's got bullets in it. And he's very upset," Ms. Rivas says in a quavering voice. "He's in the bedroom with me and he keeps pointing it at himself."

Ms. Rivas tells the dispatcher she had an affair and that her husband is upset about that "and his family and his past."

"He's not pointing the gun at you, is he?" the dispatcher asks.

"No. I don't care at this point," Ms. Rivas says.

There is a surreal calm in her voice as Ms. Rivas describes how her husband is putting bullets into his gun and cocking it.

As she tells the dispatcher that the affair came after her husband had falsely accused her of having one earlier, he tells her to get off the phone.

"She's only asking," Ms. Rivas says to her husband. "What difference does it make? Kill me. Kill yourself."

Then she says to the dispatcher: "He's trying to get me off the phone." Long silence. "Tran, stop. Why don't you stop?"

"You've talked long enough," he tells her. Long silence. "I told you! I told you! I told you!" he adds forcefully right before her screams and the gun shots.

Most neighbors in adjoining condominiums said they heard nothing and were unaware of the crime until police or reporters asked them about it.

Jayne Diggs, who lives in a condominium below the slain couple, said she had not heard anything but was awakened by her dog's barking shortly after 1: 30 a.m. "I took a look outside the door and saw the police car in the parking lot."

She assumed police were responding to a minor matter and went back to sleep. "I didn't know anyone was hurt, let alone killed," she said.

Ms. Diggs said her last conversation with Ms. Rivas was to apologize for a disturbance Ms. Diggs felt her dog was making by barking.

"Marie was a very friendly, very nice person," Ms. Diggs said. "Very lively and energetic always full of energy. He was fairly quiet -- very pleasant."

It was a perception shared by other neighbors.

Real estate tax records indicate the couple purchased the two-bedroom condominium in April 1990. Much about the couple is still a mystery, however.

Police say they found two or three business cards indicating the couple worked on computers and may have had a home business. They appear to have lived for a time in Rockville.

In a telephone interview, Mei F. Chen of Rockville acknowledged that the couple had lived at her Arctic Avenue address, but she refused to say anything else.

The couple's neighbors on Columbia Road were equally circumspect.

"It's still a shock," said a neighbor across the street who had a nodding acquaintance with the couple.

"Usually, when people you know die, they're older. But they were so young. To have their lives end here is quite a shock. We were a quiet neighborhood already. But this has made us a little more sullen."

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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