Trial begins in ’89 death
of 4-year-old McCully girl

Prosecutors say her stepfather
delivered 'severe multiple blows'

A former McCully man accused of killing his stepdaughter had no reason to think to take her to a doctor because he hadn't done anything to her, defense attorneys said.

Chau Minh Dang, 48, went on trial yesterday in Circuit Court, charged with second-degree murder for striking 4-year-old Melissa Dang in the abdomen and failing to obtain timely medical care for her. She died April 9, 1989, after being taken to the Straub emergency room.

It wasn't until 1998 that prosecutors came across a pediatric forensic pathologist in Minnesota who was recommended by federal prosecutors. The pathologist reviewed the records and concluded that the girl was struck within the period her stepfather had custody of her, senior Deputy Prosecutor Maurice Arrisgado said.

If convicted, Dang faces life with the possibility of parole.

"No one will ever say they saw Chau Dang viciously punch, kick or hurt Melissa in any way," defense attorney Sam King Jr. said during opening statements yesterday.

But Arrisgado told the jury that doctors are expected to testify that the girl died of "severe multiple blows to her belly that caused a rupture to her small intestines." And the only person with an opportunity to kill Melissa Dang was her stepfather, he said.

Melissa divided her time between her grandmother's Palolo home and her mother's Date Street home.

But she had become so attached to her maternal grandmother that when Dang would pick her up, she would refuse to go, Arrisgado said.

On one occasion, Dang was seen putting the girl into his car forcefully, throwing her into the backseat and slapping her a couple times, the prosecutor said. One month before the girl's death, the grandmother and an aunt also observed bruises on her belly and nicks on her head, Arrisgado said.

The grandmother is expected to testify that the last time she saw Melissa alive on the afternoon of April 8, she watched from a bathroom window as Dang grabbed the girl in a headlock and with her feet dangling, carried her to the car before letting her scramble into the back seat, he told the jury.

That night, according to King, Melissa was left alone with Dang and her infant brother for five hours while her mother went to work as a hostess at a Keeaumoku Street lounge.

During the night, Melissa apparently vomited. Dang informed his wife, who checked on her when she got home from work between midnight and 1 a.m., but the girl closed her eyes and didn't respond. Beginning at 5 a.m., Melissa was asking for milk and complaining of pain in her leg, King said. By 9 a.m. she wasn't responding.

The couple took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead a half-hour later, King said.

Alvin Omori, the city medical examiner at the time, concluded that the girl probably had died from blows that were inflicted less than 24 hours earlier, King said.

Melissa was still with her grandmother 24 hours earlier and Dang wasn't around because he had been on duty with the Navy the previous night and hadn't seen the girl since Thursday, he said.

There were too many people who came into contact with the girl at her grandmother's home in the days before she died who potentially could have inflicted the fatal blow, including her aunts and their boyfriends who also lived at the Palolo home, King said.

The mother, Hao Dang, 36, was charged with second-degree murder by omission for failing to take her daughter to the hospital sooner.

She pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of manslaughter in May under a plea agreement and is expected to testify against her former husband.


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