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Arson That Killed 2 Firefighters Wasn't Salon Owner's First

Thu Hong Nguyen faces up to 30 years in prison
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2018 2:32 PM CDT
In this Nov. 12, 2015, file photo, Thu Hong Nguyen makes a court appearance at Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City, Mo.   (Allison Long/The Kansas City Star via AP, File)
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(Newser) – The 2015 deaths of two firefighters were caused by a woman who set fire to her own nail salon, and not for the first time, a judge ruled Monday. Thu Hong Nguyen was found guilty of two counts each of first-degree arson, second-degree murder, and second-degree assault after using flammable liquid, possibly acetone, to start a fire in the storeroom of Kansas City's LN Nails and Spa on Oct. 12, 2015. More than 100 firefighters responded as the three-alarm blaze ripped through a three-story building. Among them, John Mesh and Larry Leggio were killed when a brick wall collapsed. Two others were seriously injured. The Kansas City Star reports that the second arson count was over a 2013 fire set at a nail salon Nguyen previously operated. She afterward collected $50,000 in insurance money, per KCTV.

In fact, prosecutors said each of five nail salons Nguyen operated in Texas and Missouri since 2006 were closed after a fire or burglary, leading to four insurance payouts. Each was for more than the purchase price of the business, per the Star. An auditor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Nguyen received more than $250,000 in business and personal insurance payouts over a dozen years. After her arrest, Nguyen—who faces up to 30 years in prison at her Sept. 14 sentencing—reportedly admitted to a fellow inmate that she'd set the latest fire but didn't mean for anyone to die. "We're very happy with the verdict," Mesh's brother told reporters. It "has lifted a little bit of weight off our chest to where we can finally continue on with our healing process," added Leggio's wife. "We still have a little bit of a way to go." (Read more arson stories.)

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