Time was running out for Trinh Nguyen.
For months, the 38-year-old mother of two boys had evaded her landlord’s attempt to remove her from the rented five-bedroom home on Timber Ridge Road, an upscale development off Highland Road in Upper Makefield.
The newly divorced Nguyen refused to move out, according to documents filed in Bucks County Court. She also refused to pay more than $11,000 in back rent and court costs that she owed.
Her final warning letter arrived last month. It said, if she did not leave by May 3, a state constable would force her out.
Instead of packing up, authorities allege Nguyen took a gun she legally owned and shot her sons,13-year-old Jeffrey “JT” and Nelson Tini, 10, in their heads early Monday morning, leaving them critically wounded. Their aunt, accompanied by police, would find them laying in their beds as their mother fled authorities, police said.
Authorities do not expect the boys to survive, but as of Tuesday afternoon there was no reported change in their conditions. The boys were placed on life support after the family decided to donate their organs.
Their mother is being held without bail in Bucks County Correctional Center charged with four counts of attempted homicide and one count of possessing an instrument of a crime. District Attorney Matt Weintraub has said the charges will be upgraded to murder as her sons are expected to die.
The shootings have stunned the surrounding community including the Council Rock School District, where the boys attended Sol Feinstone and Newtown Middle. On Tuesday, the Newtown Athletic Club, where Nguyen and her boys were members, opened its doors to district children. So did Earth’s Best Organics Farm, which is owned by a friend of the boys.
Vigils were held for the boys outside Newtown Middle School, where JT attended on Monday night. Another vigil was scheduled for Tuesday night at the Washington Crossing United Methodist Church, where Nguyen was apprehended Monday.
“This tragic event has a significant and heart-wrenching impact on our Council Rock community. We know that parents, students, staff, and members of our community will process this tragedy in different ways and different paces, Acting Superintendent Susan Elliott wrote in an online statement Tuesday. “We have several counselors and additional support at the buildings the two boys attended.”
The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office only said it has “strong leads” on a motive for the shootings, but declined to comment calling it premature. District Attorney Matt Weintraub also declined to comment on the pending eviction.
But court documents obtained by this news organization offer a glimpse into the recent dispute between Nguyen and her former sister-in-law and landlord, who alleges Nguyen engaged in threatening and abusive behavior toward her since she ended her lease.
What happened Monday in Upper Makefield
Around 7 a.m. on Monday, Upper Makefield police responded to a report of an armed subject in the 100 block of Timber Ridge Road, according to a probable cause affidavit in the case.
When police arrived Gianni Melchiondo, who lives on the property police described as a duplex, said he was putting his bag into his car to leave for work.
Melchiondo works at the Philadelphia auto window tinting business owned by his uncle, Edward Tini, who is Nguyen’s ex-husband and Nelson Tini’s father. Melchiondo’s mother, Corrina Tini Melchiondo owns the home where Nguyen lived.
Melchiondo told police that Nguyen approached him with a box of photos and asked him to give it to Edward Tini. When Melchiondo turned around to face Nguyen she was pointing a black revolver at his face.
She pulled the trigger twice, but the gun didn’t fire, authorities said.
Melchiondo immediately wrapped Nguyen in a “bear hug” and disarmed her. Nguyen then asked him to give her back the gun, claiming it wasn’t loaded, the affidavit said. Melchiondo found several rounds in the gun after clearing it, according to court records.
He ran back to his house and locked the door. Nguyen got into her white Toyota Sienna minivan and drove away. She was later spotted crossing the Washington Crossing Bridge into Hopewell, New Jersey.
Police at the scene learned that Nguyen had two sons who lived with her. Tini Melchiondo and a police officer went to check on the boys and found them in their beds with gunshot wounds to the head.
Nguyen taken into custody
More than four hours after she was seen entering New Jersey, Nguyen spotted in the parking lot of Washington Crossing United Methodist Church, who recognized the vehicle’s description police had broadcast and called authorities.
Nguyen was taken into custody there. The DA said there were indications she was under the influence of drugs at the time. She was also found with ammunition for her revolver in her vehicle when she was arrested, Weintraub said.
Authorities have released little personal information about Nguyen since her arrest.
Her social media footprint appears limited to a Facebook page that has not been updated since February 2020. It is filled with photos of her sons and other family photos with Edward Tini before they separated last year.
Nguyen was previously married to Scott Dinh, and that divorce was finalized in May 2009, and the couple had two sons — J.T. who was born in 2009 and Michael, who was born in 2005, according to court documents filed in Missouri. Dinh was awarded custody of Michael, according to court records.
This news organization was unsuccessful in reaching Dinh or his family for comment through phone calls and emails.
Legal troubles involving the property
Court records filed in Bucks County show last March Nguyen filed for divorce from Edward Tini, of Philadelphia, and he moved out of the Timber Ridge Road home sometime in the spring. Both children remained with Nguyen. While the boys have different fathers, school officials said they shared Tini’s last name.
According to court records, Corrina Tini-Melchiondo entered into an oral agreement with her brother, Edward Tini in July 2012 to purchase the Timber Ridge Road property together.
Tini-Melchiondo put a downpayment on the property and took out a mortgage and Edward Tini was to pay off the mortgage in five years, and pay one-half of the ongoing bills and maintenance for the property and extensively renovate it, according to court filings.
Ngyen was not part of the agreement involving the property and “merely resided at the property with (Edward Tini) as his pregnant girlfriend in 2012 and thereafter as his wife.” The documents do not state when the couple married.
But as part of a property settlement agreement the couple reached in June, Nguyen agreed to continue paying the household bills to Tini-Melchiondo, who agreed to let her “temporarily reside” at the home.
The month-to-month lease was contingent on Nguyen paying half of the monthly expenses — estimated at $2,400 a month — associated with the property including the mortgage, insurance, electric, taxes, cable, HOA fee.
But Nguyen had not paid her since July and refused to leave the property, “despite numerous requests to do so,” according to a September letter from Tini-Melchiondo’s attorney Cheryl Garber.
The letter referenced the property settlement agreement and noted “you have had the financial means to pay Ms. Tini-Melchiondo, but have simply refused to do so.”
As part of the divorce settlement, Edward Tini agreed to pay Nguyen $3,500 a month in child support for two years, then $1,500 a month until Nelson turned 18 or graduated high school, court documents said.
The attorney’s letter also suggests a contentious relationship between Nguyen and Tini-Melchiondo following the divorce.
“As you are well aware, you have engaged in threatening and verbally abusive behavior toward my client using profanity and have engaged in acts that damage or deface the property, including dumping dog feces by my client’s front door,” Garber wrote. “Such conduct will no longer be tolerated.”
Garber also warned that police would be contacted if Nguyen acted in “any inappropriate or abusive manner” toward her client and threatened to sue Nguyen for damage to the property, and if she engaged in defamatory conduct or interfered in her client’s business relationships.
This news organization has submitted a Right to Know request for 911 call records for the Timber Ridge Road home.
Reached on Monday, Garber declined comment. This news organization was unsuccessful in reaching Tini-Melchiondo for comment Tuesday.
In September Nguyen was told to vacate the Timber Ridge Road home by Oct. 28 and when that didn’t happen, Tini-Melchiondo filed eviction proceedings in the Newtown Township magisterial court in November.
The landlord was granted a judgment of possession ― the step before an eviction order ― in December, but Nguyen appealed to the Common Pleas Court. In April, Tini-Melchiondo received an order of possession giving Nguyen until May 3 to leave or be evicted.
The attorneys who represented Nguyen and Edward Tini in their divorce declined comment on Tuesday.
“We are all saddened for such a tragic loss of these children and cannot imagine what Ed Tini and Jeffrey’s father (Scott Dinh) are going through right now,” said attorney Michael Kuldiner, who represented Tini in the divorce.