Sabrina Nguyen, 18, repeatedly called police for help but was found dead at a busy intersection where she was stabbed more than 30 timesContinue reading
Sabrina Nguyen loved her long black hair. Sometimes it went up in a bun, but most often, she wore it down. The only times she ever cut it was to trim the dead ends.
It alarmed her family, then, when a few days before Christmas, her hair was raggedly chopped to her shoulders.
It was her ex-boyfriend, again, she told her family.
He’d stolen her phone and car, court records show. A report filed with her insurance company says he physically abused her, threatened to stab her and threatened to kill himself. He threatened to cut off her hair if she didn’t comply with his sexual demands.
Nguyen gave police several accounts of her ex-boyfriend’s escalating threats and violence in the weeks before she died.
The 18-year-old’s stabbing death, the first homicide of the new year, was preventable, her family and friends said.
“I feel like (the police) failed my little sister,” said Jimmy Nguyen, Sabrina Nguyen’s older brother. “Every time we called them and told them what happened … they wasn’t really trying to help.”
Memphis police said the department did what it could: Officers arrested Keedrin K. Coppage, 22, seven times for incidents with Nguyen but whether or not he’d be released from jail was not up to police, MPD spokesperson Lt. Louis Brownlee said.
“It’s a terrible situation for any family to lose a loved one,” he said.
Statewide, 73,568 offenses reported to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were flagged as domestic violence-related in 2018. That year in Memphis, the police and Shelby County sheriff’s departments implemented a new risk-assessment program, the Lethality Assessment Program, meant to reduce offenses.
Brownlee said police followed the risk-assessment steps in the case and connected Nguyen with an advocate at the Family Safety Center.
Coppage was arrested and charged with first-degree murder Friday. He was also charged with tampering and fabricating evidence in the case.
Memphis homicides:A comprehensive view of killings inside the city
‘We were hoping there was another chance for her’
Nguyen was goofy, her family said, and loved Dixie Queen hot wings, her mother’s cooking, fast cars and video games. She wasn’t shy. Her strength was in placing the problems of others before her own, which she often shielded with lighthearted humor.
“(Her death) is hard and devastating for sure, because she was such a witty and outgoing child,” said Nguyen’s oldest brother, Daniel Nguyen.
Sabrina Nguyen, 18, was killed in one of the first homicides of 2020. In the month before her death, she made several reports to police about escalating threats and violence from her ex-boyfriend, a person of interest in her killing.
By 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, the last time Jimmy Nguyen saw his younger sister, she had reported to police that Coppage had stolen her car and taken her cell phone. She told a friend she was going to meet Coppage, maybe to get her car back, her family said. She asked the friend to call the police, her brother said.
Nhung Nguyen, Sabrina Nguyen’s mother, had a bad feeling when the family got a knock on the door from police two days later, on Jan. 2. They told the family that Nguyen had been found stabbed to death less than a mile from home.
“Me and my dad, we were just in disbelief. We didn’t want to believe it,” Jimmy Nguyen said. “We were hoping there was another chance for her.”
In addition to Sabrina Nguyen’s reports, the Nguyen family estimates that they made more than 200 calls to police in the six months before Sabrina Nguyen died.
The Memphis Police Department handles about 50,000 domestic violence-related calls each year.
Larry Buser, a spokesperson for the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, declined to discuss details of pending cases or charging decisions.
“Procedurally, police investigate, we advise on charges in some cases, and handle cases in court based on investigative reports from police and/or other agencies,” Buser said. He noted that bond is determined by judges or judicial officers, and that domestic violence prosecutors frequently make motions to increase bonds.
Coppage made a $10,000 bond before an arraignment on Dec. 23.
“We were prepared to address the bond issue, but the defendant did not show up in court,” Buser said.
Judge William C. Turner, who presided over Coppage’s cases, did not respond to comment in time for publication of this story.
Tyren Joyner (from left), Kaylon Carpenter and Jimmy Nguyen talk Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, about the late Sabrina Nguyen. She was killed on Jan. 2.
Court documents show Nguyen reported stabbing attempt two weeks before her death
Records show that in December, Nguyen made reports to police that Coppage had called her over 50 times over a three-day span and was continuing to make threats that caused her to fear for her safety.
According to the affidavit, Coppage was identified in six domestic violence reports and a prior arrest for assaulting Nguyen. A warrant was issued for Coppage for harassment.
Nguyen then made an assault report to police four days later, on Dec. 10, and Coppage was arrested on scene.
Nguyen continued to receive harassing phone calls from Coppage, with messages threatening serious harm and death, court documents show.
On Dec. 16, Coppage was charged with aggravated stalking, violation of bail conditions for the earlier harassment charge, aggravated kidnapping, robbery and aggravated assault.
He was arrested and released from jail on Dec. 17.
Two days later, Coppage nearly stabbed Nguyen outside 201 Poplar, according to court documents. She was attempting to appear in court for an order of protection against him when he approached her with a knife in his waistband. Coppage threatened to kill Nguyen if she made a commotion, and she was afraid for her life, she told police.
Coppage took Nguyen’s cell phones, forced her into the passenger seat of her vehicle and drove her around for hours before releasing her, court documents show. She reported the incident to police the following day. Coppage was charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated stalking, robbery, aggravated assault and violation of bail conditions.
Later that night, Coppage called Nguyen. Coppage and Nguyen then were gone for nearly four days. Nguyen returned home with short hair and no car.
On. Jan. 2, Nguyen was found dead near her home.
Family and friends gathered at a candlelight vigil for Sabrina Nguyen on Jan. 5. Nguyen was killed in one of the first homicides in 2020.
Coppage was arrested on Jan. 3 by U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force who located him at a home in the 5500 block of Patsy Circle East, the same block of his last known address, court documents show. A press release stated he had warrants for first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping.
At the time, Coppage was a person of interest in Nguyen’s homicide, MPD said.
Coppage later admitted to being with Nguyen before and after her death on Jan. 2, court documents show. Coppage described placing her in the trunk of her car, attempting to clean blood and changing out of the clothing he was wearing at the time of her death, documents show.
Coppage said he drove Nguyen in her car to the intersection of Jackson and Maple where police later found her body at 11:40 a.m. on Jan. 2, documents show. He told police he discarded the clothing he was wearing and abandoned Nguyen’s car, court documents show.
Bond in this case was set at $500,000. A video arraignment is scheduled for Monday morning.
Nationally, Tennessee ranks fifth alongside South Carolina for its homicide rate among female victims murdered by males. That rate is 2% in Tennessee compared to 1.29% on average across the United States.
Nguyen’s family and friends want justice for her, but are unsure where to turn, they said.
“She took more than enough steps to be safe and be careful,” said Tyren Joyner, Nguyen’s brother.
Family and friends tried to do the right thing by calling police, he said. The family said they saw police cars patrolling outside their home for the three nights after Nguyen’s death, but never before.
“It’s too late,” Jimmy Nguyen said.
Hai Nguyen talks about his late daughter, Sabrina, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, at his home in Memphis. Sabrina was killed on Jan. 2. She was 18.
To talk to someone about incidents of domestic violence, call:
The Family Safety Center at 901-222-4400.
National Domestic Violence Hotline to talk to an advocate about domestic violence: 1-800-799-7233.
Shelby County Crime Victims Center, which can help victims get orders of protection: 901-222-3950.
Memphis Police Domestic Violence Unit, which will talk to victims about domestic violence incidents: 901-636-3741
Alexa Imani Spencer covers breaking news for The Commercial Appeal. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-304-9740. Find her on Twitter: @AlexaImani
Laura Testino covers education and children’s issues for The Commercial Appeal. Reach her at email@example.com or 901-512-3763. Find her on Twitter: @LDTestino
Sabrina Nguyen, 18, told Memphis police she suspected her ex-boyfriend, Keedrin Coppage, was behind phone calls in which a robotic voice told her she was going to die.
A young Memphis mother who was fatally stabbed last week allegedly received a series of threatening phone calls from her ex-boyfriend before she was killed, but police have yet to arrest a suspect in her connection to her death.
Sabrina Nguyen, who was stabbed to death in north Memphis on Jan. 2, had filed at least half a dozen domestic violence reports against her ex-boyfriend Keedrin Coppage, who she said repeatedly threatened to kill her weeks before her death, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
Between Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, the 18-year-old woman, who was “fearful” for her life, told police she received more than 50 phone calls from different numbers from her ex, who uttered death threats at his former girlfriend.
Memphis police charged Coppage, 22, with misdemeanor harassment, but the sinister phone calls persisted.
On Dec. 14, Nguyen again accused Coppage of dialing her 25 times during the afternoon, threatening to “seriously harm” her, a separate criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com stated. Her phone allegedly continued to ring off the hook well past midnight when a robotic voice calling from an unknown number told her that she was going to die.
“A computer-type voice told her that she was going to be killed,” the criminal complaint stated. “Also the voice referenced her draining the little love that was left; and made reference to her child.”
The call had supposedly originated from a blocked number, but Nguyen later told police she believed that it was Coppage, who was speaking through Siri to further frighten her.
Police examined Nguyen’s call logs and once again arrested Coppage, this time for stalking. He posted a $10,000 bond on Dec. 18 and was released.
Two days later, on Dec. 20, Coppage was also slapped with kidnapping, stalking, robbery, and bail violation charges, according to separate court documents. It’s unclear if Nguyen, who wasn’t named, was connected to that incident. However, Coppage managed to avoid arrest, and three days later allegedly stole Nguyen’s 2019 Nissan Sentra and her cell phone, another criminal complaint shows. Police again weren’t able to immediately locate the 22-year-old.
On Jan. 2, roughly a week later, Nguyen was fatally stabbed. Two days after that, police booked Coppage on previous felony charges. However, a spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department confirmed with Oxygen.com that he hasn’t been charged in his ex-girlfriend’s death.
The woman’s family held a vigil for Nguyen on Sunday, CBS affiliate WREG-TV reported.
“Being around her was the best thing for me, ever,” her brother, David Nguyen, told the outlet. “Losing her is the worst thing to happen to me and I’m still grieving over it right now.”
A friend of Nguyen’s also said the former couple’s violent fallout had been simmering for several months.
“She’s even sent me voice recordings of [Coppage] admitting that he’s been beating on her since October and just saying some real vile things,” Angel Langford, Nguyen’s friend, told WREG-TV. “It was just so scary and we’d ask Sabrina where he’s at? What can we do for you? Tell us when this stuff is going on.”
Coppage is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 21, according to court records. He’s being held in a Shelby County jail. Oxygen.com was unable to immediately reach his attorney JaKeva Dotson for comment on Wednesday.
For more than two weeks last month, 18-year-old Sabrina Nguyen filed several reports and complaints against her ex-boyfriend for allegedly stalking and intimidating her.
On Dec. 15, Nguyen told Memphis Police that she received eight phone calls between 12:10 a.m. and 12:27 a.m. and a computer-type voice told her she was “going to be killed,” according to filed court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
On Jan. 2, Nguyen was found stabbed to death at the intersection of Maple Drive and Jackson Avenue in Memphis, according to The Commercial-Appeal newspaper.
The following day, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Keedrin Coppage, 22. He has not been charged in Nguyen’s death, according to court documents.
On Monday, he appeared in front of a Shelby County judge for a felony theft charge related to a domestic violence case, according to court documents.
On Dec. 27, Nguyen filed a report claiming Coppage had taken her 2019 Nissan Sentra along with her phone and refused to return her vehicle, according to a court document.
He will appear in court on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge later this month as a result of Nguyen’s complaint that he called her repeatedly between Dec. 3 and 5.
“[S]he feels harassed and fearful for her safety due to his threatening and continuous, unwanted contact,” the report claims. “Nguyen stated she has been called over 50 times.”
While Coppage remains behind bars, Nguyen’s family is planning her funeral.
Her best friend told local TV station WREG that she can’t believe the situation.
“You think it won’t get to that level of your best friend dying on you,” Nguyen’s friend Heaven Langford said. “You never think your best friend is going to get murdered by this person because you just have faith in humanity and stuff like this won’t happen.” No murder charges have been filed.
Nguyen’s brother David continues to mourn her as well.
“Being around her was the best thing for me, ever” he told WREG. “Losing her is the worst thing to happen to me and I’m still grieving over it right now.”
Coppage remains in jail and has requested an appointed defense attorney.