“Knockout Game” Killing Begins Trial in St. Louis

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In St. Louis County, the so-called “knockout game” played among teenagers shocks the city as one man was fatally beaten and his wife injured as well.

Hoand Nguyen, age 72, was fatally beaten in Dutchtown neighborhood during broad daylight. He was walking home from a grocery store with his wife, Yen. She was also injured from the attack as they punched her in the eye.

St. Louis prosecutors begin the murder case against Elex Murphy, age 20, and one of the four individuals allegedly involved in the April 16, 2011 attack. Only one of the four has been charged.

The so-called “knockout game” is when people are randomly chosen off of the streets and are sucker-punched for fun. At the time, crime reports of the “knockout game” resulted in other cities. Murphy pleaded not guilty and may provide an alibi that he was sleeping, according to court records.

This high-profile case of its type is the first among Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office to be prosecuted. It is also the first of “knockout game” cases since Murphy was charged to go to trial. Murphy, then 18-years-old, faces first-degree murder and other charges.

On April 16, 2011, Murphy approached the couple in an alley at Spring and Chippewa, punching Yen’s husband in the head and then her in the eye, according to police. A second man kicked Hoang Nguyen in the ribs. Hoang Nguyen was transported to the St. Louis University Hospital where he was pronounced dead later.

Susan Cho Figenshau, a member of the lawyer’s group, said it wanted to make sure the trial isn’t viewed through racial or ethnic lens. The Nguygen’s are Vietnamese, having immigrated three years before the attack. Murphy is African-American and Figenshaue said her group has been working with the Mound City Bar Association, an African-American organization to make sure the case doesn’t become divisive.

She wrote that the reporter’s notes might help prosecutors identify the other man, and two women, believed to have participated in the attack. The judge denied the motion, determining the reporter’s notes were constitutionally protected.

Police never revealed how they zeroed in on Murphy, who was arrested but not charged twice that month on suspicion of larceny and trespassing. There was a surveillance video of the attack from a nearby business. Police also tried to match Murphy to the crime by a partial footprint left on Hoang Nguyen’s clothing, according to court records. When Murphy was arrested April 19, 2011, his clothing which included a pair of black tennis shoes, was confiscated.

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