A Citrus Heights man was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder in connection with the 2017 death of his wife, whose scattered, skeletonized remains were discovered weeks later by hikers in Placer County.
Michael Abeyta, 30, on July 23 pleaded guilty in Placer Superior Court to the Oct. 11, 2017, murder of his wife, Trang Tran.
Hikers found Tran’s remains on Jan. 27, 2018, near Lake Clementine off Foresthill Road, in an area thick with underbrush, according to previous reporting from the Bee.
Sentencing documents further outlined the grisly circumstances of Tran’s death.
“Her body was skeletonized, in advanced state of decomposition, and scattered in different locations,” a news release by the Placer County District Attorney’s Office said, summarizing a sentencing memo filed by Deputy District Attorney Mariam Baxley. The remains were identified as those of Tran with help from the anthropology department at Chico State and the California Department of Justice.
Tran, 23 at the time of her disappearance, was born in Vietnam and was studying in the United States under a student visa. She and Abeyta met while attending Central Florida University, the sheriff’s investigation found.
Abeyta and Tran married shortly after they met, with the belief that Tran was pregnant with Abeyta’s child, according to the sentencing memo. After Abeyta learned that Tran had a miscarriage, “the marriage deteriorated and ultimately led to Tran’s murder by Abeyta,” the DA’s news release said.
During the course of investigation, Placer County sheriff’s deputies spoke to an off-duty police officer, who on Oct. 10, 2017, witnessed Abeyta push a car off an embankment close to where Tran’s remains were found. Abeyta was arrested on Feb. 1, 2018, after detectives located the vehicle at a local tow yard and found Tran’s passport inside, authorities said.
“It is beyond tragic that this young woman came to our country for an education, and fell in love and married a monster who rather than divorce her, decided to kill her and dump her body to decay in the woods,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Jeff Wilson said in a statement.
Tran’s parents traveled from Vietnam to attend the sentencing hearing with the assistance of special agents from the U.S. Diplomatic Service, according to the sheriff’s and DA’s offices.