Former Cambodian Beauty Queen Murdered in California

Tho Vantha, a former refugee who was crowned Miss Cambodian-American in 1998, was found dead in her California apartment in what police suspect was a murder-suicide, U.S. media reported.

The suspect, an ex-boyfriend identified as Angel Marquez, 32, of Los Angeles, is thought to have fatally shot Tho Vantha, 35, a hairdresser, at her apartment in Hermosa Beach before taking his own life on Thursday morning, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Tho Vantha smiles in a photograph posted to a web page created by her family to raise funds for funeral expenses.
Tho Vantha smiles in a photograph posted to a web page created by her family to raise funds for funeral expenses.

Relatives of Tho Vantha could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but her uncle-in-law, Visal Kang, confirmed her death on his Facebook page on Friday.

“RIP Vantha (Moch). My wife’s niece,” he wrote, adding that the “ex-Miss Cambodian American was murdered on 7/28/2016.”

“No safe in this world,” he wrote. “Wherever Whoever Whenever. We love you.”

In 1998, Tho Vantha received her crown in the beauty pageant that began in Long Beach in 1987, according to the book “Cambodians in Long Beach,” by Susan Needham and Karen Quintiliani.

Long Beach, in Los Angeles County, has the largest Cambodian community in the U.S.

A 1999 cover of Entertainment This Week features Tho Vantha, left, alongside Cambodian actor Tep Rindaro.

Tho Vantha’s brother, Tho Vouthy, an aspiring rapper, died in a gang-related shooting in Long Beach in 2003 when he was just 21, the Los Angeles-based Daily Breeze reported on Friday. The pair collaborated on a song called “Love,” which has been widely shared online since Tho Vantha’s death.

Thai Norak Sathya, a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said he was saddened to hear of Tho Vantha’s death and hoped U.S. authorities would make a thorough investigation into the case.

“This murder has happened in a country that brags about being the most democratic, so I hope authorities there are working hard to find real justice,” he said.

According to a 1999 edition of Entertainment This Week, an entertainment magazine once published in Phnom Penh, Tho Vantha was born in a refugee camp on the Thai border in 1981 and moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was 3 months old.

(Additional reporting by Hannah Hawkins)

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