All five suspects accused in the vicious stabbing and carjacking of a pregnant first-grade teacher outside her home in Sunland last month pleaded not guilty Wednesday, prosecutors said.
Tanya Nguyen, 33, was parking outside her house on Eldora Avenue the evening of March 20 when she was ambushed by three men — identified by prosecutors as Christian Reyes, 20; Andrew Bran, 19; and Jesus Morales, 18 — who asked to borrow her phone before punching her in the face and stabbing her repeatedly, according to investigators.
Reyes is accused of forcing Nguyen from her car, allowing Bran to allegedly steal things inside.
The other two suspects — 24-year-old Christina Luna and Monica Gomez, 25 — were allegedly waiting in a getaway car that Morales got into. Reyes and Bran meanwhile took off in Nguyen's car, but crashed into vehicles parked on the side of the road a short time later, police said.
Luna and Gomez then drove all three men away from the scene, prosecutors said.
Officials believe the group carried out the attack on behalf of and at the direction of a gang.
All five pleaded not guilty Wednesday to one count each of premeditated attempted murder, carjacking, second-degree robbery and hit-and-run driving resulting in property damage.
Reyes is also fighting an additional charge of aggravated mayhem. Officials allege he was the one who used a knife to repeatedly stab Nguyen.
Nguyen — who was 11 weeks pregnant at the time of the attack, according to police — shared an ultrasound image and update on her recovery process earlier this month on a GoFundMe page raising money for her medical expenses.
"Indeed, it's a miracle that I'm here and the baby is well," she wrote. "And I have my faith and your support to thank for that. It's been so uplifting."
Nguyen said she'd had staples removed from her back, upper arm, chest and face but some staples remained where the stab wounds severed her nerves, on her left hand and wrist. She also thinks she'll be able to replace the two teeth that were knocked out this month.
The teacher added that her goal is to complete physical therapy for her left hand and be able to use it before her baby arrives.
"Today we visited the Ob/Gyn, and the baby couldn't be in better condition," Nguyen wrote. "He/she looked and sounded stellar."
The family plans to stay in their home; Nguyen says she refuses "to let a bad moment ruin all the great memories and happiness that we built there" and still believes there's "more good than bad in this world."
"This incident will not change me," she wrote. "I'm still me. I'm still smiling, positive, but now stronger than ever."
Investigators believe the group attacked Nguyen at random in a crime of opportunity while they were in the area trying to buy drugs.
Authorities said they tracked the suspects down using surveillance video and a witness tip on the getaway car's license plate number. After arresting the five, detectives allegedly found items stolen from Nguyen in Bran's home and the knife used in the crime inside Nguyen's car.
Inmate records show Luna is in custody on $1.165 million bail and Reyes is being held on $1.12 million bond. The remaining three defendants' bail has been set at $1.04 million bail.
A judge previously said Luna's bond would be set a bit higher because of a "probation matter."
Nguyen's GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $62,000 from more than 700 people so far.