Crime

16-year-old suspect in fatal Puyallup convenience store robbery appears in court

Suspect, 16, in fatal Puyallup convenience store robbery appears in court

Robbrie Purdell Thompson, a 16-year-old suspect in a fatal robbery at a Puyallup-area shop, was in court Thursday. He has not yet been charged with a crime. Handy Corner Store owner Soon Ja Nam, 79, was shot and killed April 27, 2019.
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Robbrie Purdell Thompson, a 16-year-old suspect in a fatal robbery at a Puyallup-area shop, was in court Thursday. He has not yet been charged with a crime. Handy Corner Store owner Soon Ja Nam, 79, was shot and killed April 27, 2019.

A teenager suspected in the fatal shooting of a 79-year-old convenience store owner in the Puyallup area appeared in court Thursday.

Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Sabrina Ahrens found probable cause to hold 16-year-old Robbrie Purdell Thompson in lieu of $2 million bail on suspicion of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

Thompson has not been charged with a crime. He’s been summoned to court again Friday afternoon for a possible arraignment.

A declaration for determination of probable cause gives this account:

Thompson and another 16-year-old robbed the Handy Corner Store about 5 p.m. Saturday, killing Soon Ja Nam in the process.

The other boy’s body was found on a beach near Chinook Marina in Tacoma on Monday. The Medical Examiner identified him as Franklin Thuo of Federal Way and ruled his death a homicide.

The boys allegedly demanded money from Soon while brandishing guns, and, after some difficulty, she was able to open the register.

She called to her husband, who was in another room, and he came out and saw her walking toward him.

That’s when he heard a gunshot and saw her fall to the ground.

One of the boys left, and the other gathered cash from the register.

A long-time customer and other witnesses saw someone matching Thompson’s description in the driver’s seat of a car outside, angrily pounding the steering wheel.

The customer confronted a suspect with a gun inside at the counter but stopped when that suspect activated the slide of his gun and told the customer, “Don’t worry about it.”

The suspect left, and Soon’s husband pointed to the floor behind the counter and asked the customer to help his wife.

She was taken to Tacoma General Hospital but died from the single gunshot wound to her back.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

Why did we name this person?

The News Tribune generally does not publish the names of criminal defendants until they are charged by prosecutors and typically does not publish the names of juvenile offenders. We decided to publish the name of the person in this story because of the extraordinary interest in this case combined with the fact that a judge in open court found probable cause to hold him in connection with a most serious crime.

Investigators found what is thought to be the getaway vehicle in Federal Way and learned Thuo owned it.

They determined that Thou went home after the robbery and left the next day, which was the last time his family saw him.

Detectives also watched a video allegedly posted by the gunmen before the robbery, which showed the teenagers in a car, wearing surgical gloves, with several guns.

Thompson was contacted by detectives on his way to school Wednesday. He allegedly said he and Thuo talked about robbing the store but that he changed his mind and decided not to do it.

A gun investigators found in his home allegedly matched one thought to be used in the robbery.

The investigation is ongoing.

Follow more of our reporting on The killing of convenience store owner Soon Ja Nam

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Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.

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