On Thursday, June 21, 2018 Soi Dang, 34, formerly of 46A Wamsutta Avenue, Halifax, was found guilty of the 2015 second-degree murder of Marissa Randall, 19, of Revere. The dramatic and lengthy trial began on Monday, June 11, in Plymouth Superior Court, presided over by Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty, II.
Plymouth County Assistant District Attorneys Amanda Fowle and Jennifer Sprague alleged that Dang, a Vietnamese immigrant who once worked at Shaw’s in Carver, met Randall for the purpose of exchanging money for sex on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. The two had met once for the same purpose, they say, a week before, with no incident.
Dang picked Randall up in Revere that afternoon and drove her to Halifax.
After sex, they had a dispute that became physical over the amount of money to be exchanged, prosecutors say, during which Dang stabbed and choked Randall to death.
Dang bound Randall’s body and hid it in a closet, wrapped in a plastic tablecloth. He then drove to the Castle Island area of South Boston, took a 30-minute nap, and went to work the next morning at Shaw’s, according to the assistant district attorneys.
Randall’s body was discovered by Halifax police the day after the stabbing, said the district attorney’s office. Halifax police were searching for a missing Duxbury minor who they found with Dang that day by tracking her cellphone to his address. The girl, who Halifax police returned to Duxbury police, told Duxbury officers she had seen blood at Dang’s apartment, and that he said he had killed someone the night before.
Halifax Police returned to Dang’s home, where he freely let them in, and found blood, so they obtained a warrant to search the premises and contacted State Police. Halifax and State Police investigated the incident.
Opening the trial, the prosecution laid out a methodical case against Dang, who sat through the proceedings calmly. They entered over 100 exhibits into evidence and called multiple state scientists, crime scene investigators, and state police to the witness stand. The testimony was often confusing, slow, and filled with technical jargon.
But the picture that the testimony and evidence painted was damning. The final piece of evidence before the prosecution rested was an audio recording of an interrogation conducted primarily by lead investigator State Police Detective Paul MacDonald.
In the recording of the more than hour-long interview, Dang is casual as he admits to the violent stabbing he is accused of. His voice is emotionless as he chillingly explains, “Things just got out of control,” and that there was an “average amount of blood…it wasn’t like in the movies” after he killed Randall.
Next, the court-appointed defense attorney, Timothy Bradl, a former 13-year Suffolk County A.D.A., called Dr. Carl Dahlberg, an expert witness who is an ER doctor, to the stand to interpret toxicology reports conducted on Randall. The doctor testified that Randall had consumed Adderall and marijuana, and the dose of Adderall, an amphetamine, may have been enough to make her impulsive, euphoric, or manic. “It is reasonable to infer it was a larger dose than a doctor would prescribe,” he said.
After that, Dang testified in his own defense. He admitted to the stabbing but testified that Randall was agitated and that she had stabbed him with a screwdriver first, before he stabbed her with a knife. Upon cross-examination, however, he was nervous, seemed confused, and was unable to keep his testimony consistent. “I wasn’t thinking,” he said multiple times, when asked why he never mentioned the screwdriver to the police.
On Tuesday, June 19, the defense rested. The prosecution called one rebuttal witness, lead investigator Detective Macdonald, who testified that he knew of no wound consistent with a stabbing on Dang’s body. He also said that he didn’t know of Dang ever seeking medical assistance from the police, casting further doubt on Dang’s story of Randall attacking him.
The trial was unusual due to the busing of jurors under police escort to the crime scene in Halifax, the graphic nature of pictures and a video entered into evidence, and the length of time taken by all parties in conducting the case.
On Wednesday, the 16 jurors, who were evenly split between men and women, heard about 30 minutes of closing arguments from both the prosecution and defense.
The defense lawyer, Bradl, argued that the Commonwealth was unfairly entering graphic photos and a video into evidence and that Dang was a “passive guy.” He stated that the jury had a legal duty not to be too strict on self-defense.
The prosecution summed up their arguments as well, describing a horrific stabbing and an indifference to suffering on the part of Dang. “The words from his own mouth seal his fate,” said A.D.A. Sprague.
Judge Moriarty, a deliberate and soft-spoken man, spent about an hour instructing the jury on the law. He explained the two theories of murder in the first degree, on which Dang had been indicted, (one based on deliberate meditation and the other on extreme atrocity and cruelty), either or both of which can support a finding of guilty, and he instructed jurors on the two lesser charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Twelve of the 16 jurors were randomly selected to deliberate on a verdict, while four were sequestered as alternate jurors. The final 12-person jury comprised seven women and five men, 11 of whom are Caucasian and one African-American.
The jury spent about 8 hours deliberating before delivering their verdict on Thursday.
When the verdict was read, Dang stood emotionless, in an ill-fiting blue shirt and khaki slacks.
Dang will be sentenced on Friday to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. The judge will hear arguments on parole and the victim’s family’s impact statement at that hearing.
The trial was attended frequently by family members of Randall, including her mother, Annmarie Stoilov, who was a witness to Randall’s character. “She was just getting her life together…I have one word for this trial: speechless. I’m speechless,” Stoilov said after the sixth day of the proceedings.
Stoilov became visibly overwhelmed and exited the courtroom several times during the trial. She was also chastised by the judge on the seventh day of proceedings for using her cellphone to photograph license plates of the defendant’s family members, angering defense counsel. “I can’t imagine the stress these proceedings have put you under,” the judge said, but he ordered her to cease taking photographs of the defendant’s family, defense counsel or their vehicles and threatened to call a mistrial or hold Stoilov in contempt of court if the photography continued. Stoilov said she would stop, and the judge said he would take her at her word.
Dang’s younger brother, older sister, mother and other supporters were present at different times during the trial.