A robber who shot a Vietnamese woman in her store while her youngest child was asleep in the back has been sentenced to death by a jury in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Thursday, reports the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald here.
It took the jury 5 hours to impose the death penalty on Jason Lee Keller, 30 (pictured).
The day before, the jury took just 30 minutes to find Keller guilty of the June 21, 2007 robbery and murder of Hat Nguyen, then 41, a single mother of four who worked seven days a week at Pop’s Ferry Road Food Mart.
Under Mississippi law, only a jury can impose the death penalty. According to the Sun Herald, this case marks the first time in five years that a Harrison County jury has given the death penalty.
Hat Nguyen’s family had lost their home in Hurricane Katrina and they had been living in the back of the store. When Keller was shooting their mother, Nguyen’s youngest child was sleeping in the back.
Nguyen was shot four times. The final shot was to the back of her head and it killed her.
A forensic pathologist testified that the victim was still alive as she crouched or knelt behind the store counter before the final shot.
In an interview with Biloxi police, Keller admitted he robbed and shot Nguyen but said he didn’t mean for the bullets to strike her.
Six months before the robbery, Keller had robbed a bank in Lyman. He was convicted of armed bank robbery in December 2007 and was sentenced to life without parole as a habitual offender because of prior felony convictions.
Keller was already serving that sentence at the time of the trial on Nguyen’s murder.