Dane Williams, the Orange County resident who disappeared while in San Diego for the Action Sports Retailer Convention last year, was drugged and sexually assaulted before his body was dumped in an alley in City Heights, investigators revealed Tuesday as they announced the arrest of a San Diego man in connection with the crime.
Investigators said that information they learned from the victim in a June 2009 sex crime lead to the arrest.
Dane Williams' body was found in a rug in the north alley of 5200 Landis Street in City Heights on Jan. 29, 2008. The 23-year-old was last seen in the early morning hours of Jan. 26 leaving a bar in the Gaslamp. Williams, an employee of Hurley International, was in San Diego for the 2008 Action Sports Retalier trade show. An autopsy performed on Williams was unable to determine a cause of death.
Philong Huynh, 39, lived 800 feet or about one city block, from the site where Williams' body was found. An employee of a San Diego medical supply company, Huynh was arrested last Thursday afternoon and faces charges in both Williams murder and a similar sex crime earlier this summer, officials said.
The break in the case came after detectives working an unsolved sex crime that occurred on June 6, 2009, in San Diego identified Hunyh as a suspect and determined that DNA evidence collected after the crime in June matched evidence gathered in the Williams' case.
Investigators were notified of the match August 15. Once they were notified the cases were connected, homicide investigators then adopted the sex crime case as their own.
“I would say a tremendous amount of the credit goes to the sex crime victim in this case,” said to Lt. Kevin Rooney of the San Diego Police Department.. “He was courageous. He was completely helpful with us.”
It took several weeks and search warrants to identify Huynh as the suspect. On Thursday afternoon, they arrested Huynh and served two more search warrants connected to the arrest. The San Diego County District Attorney's office received the case Monday where they moved to pursue charges against Hunyh.
Huynh is being charged with a single count of murder and two counts of sexual assault. According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Huynh faces a charge of California PC 286 (I), which is defined as "Any person who commits an act of sodomy, where the victim is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused."
In both cases, the victims met Huynh in the downtown area, Rooney said. Both victims were drugged.
"This case involves the sexual assault of two young men, both heterosexual, and both found without their underwear," said Gretchen Means, deputy district attorney. "Both tested positive for benzodiazapine, a controlled narcotic and central nervous system depressant." In Williams' case, the drug was Diazepam, a form of Valium, according to Rooney.
Detectives traveled to Huntington Beach to see Williams' family Monday and deliver the news of the arrest. “Obviously it’s very mixed information. On the one hand somebody is arrested and on the other hand, it’s a sex crime," Rooney said. "There’s a lot of awful news wrapped into that.”
“I guess a little something is the fact that the person who did this to their son is not out there,” he said.
Williams' parents attended the brief hearing in San Diego Tuesday, but had no comment for the media on their way out of court.
In the 17 months span between the Williams death and the June 2009 sex crime, investigators fear there may have been other victims. They have released Huynh's photo in the hope that any additional victims who have not reported a crime -- or anybody with information about either case -- would contact police at (619) 531-2293.
Court documents show Huynh was charged with kidnapping and sexual assault in 2003 regarding an incident that took place in Arizona. He was arrested in San Diego but before he was extradited, the case was dismissed.
A spokesperson for the Maricopa County DA’s office said their records show that Huynh had been jailed on charges of false imprisonment there in 2003.
Huynh pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday afternoon. He is being held on $500,000 bail.
There is a $20,000 Crimestoppers reward in the Williams case. Lt. Rooney said he hopes the money goes to the second sexual assault victim.