Crime

Murder charges filed in death of beloved Puyallup-area store owner. Teen pleads not guilty

Pierce County prosecutors on Friday charged a teenage boy in the fatal shooting of a 79-year-old Puyallup store owner.

Robbrie Purdell Thompson, 16, pleaded not guilty at arraignment to aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery, two counts of second-degree assault and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

He was ordered held on $2 million bail and will be kept at Remann Hall Juvenile Detention Center.

Thompson is one of two 16-year-old boys suspected of robbing the Handy Corner Store in Puyallup on Saturday night. Owner Soon Ja Nam was shot in the back and killed during the holdup. Investigators think the other boy shot her, according to court records.

That person, Franklin Thuo of Federal Way, washed up dead near Chinook Marina in Tacoma with a gunshot wound to the head. Thuo’s death has been ruled a homicide and detectives are still investigating.

“Current evidence supports the conclusion that Soon Nam was killed in the furtherance of the planned robbery and to also assist in concealing the identities of the participants,” deputy prosecutor Kawyne Lund wrote in the declaration for determination of probable cause. “The state reserves the right to add additional charges, to include charges related to the death of F.T.”

Charging papers give this account:

Thompson and Thuo robbed the Handy Corner Store about 5 p.m. Saturday, killing Nam in the process.

The boys allegedly entered the store with guns, and Nam yelled for her husband, who was nearby.

As he walked toward the counter, he saw Nam coming toward him, and she fell to the ground. The single gunshot wound to her back killed her.

Before she lost consciousness, she yelled from the floor for her husband to open the till.

Her husband opened the register at gunpoint, and the gunmen started taking cash.

That’s when a long-time customer arrived at the store, as a young man believed to be Thompson was exiting the business.

Investigators believe Thompson left the store immediately after Thuo shot Nam. Witnesses saw someone matching Thompson’s description in the driver’s seat of a car outside, upset and pounding the steering wheel.

Once inside the store, the long-time customer confronted someone he found taking cash from the register but backed off when he saw that person had a gun and had activated its slide.

Then that gunman fled the store and drove off with the suspect who matched Thompson’s description.

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

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

“The State is awaiting additional forensic analysis, but initial evaluation and witnesses’ description of the gun held by F.T. support the conclusion this is the gun F.T. had and was used to shoot Soon,” Lund wrote.

Detectives arrested Thompson 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 looked like one in the video.

The investigation is ongoing.

Nam’s son, Tohyon Nam attended court Friday. His mother was a beloved figure in the neighborhood surrounding the family store.

“I wanted to represent my family,” he said. “I just wanted to see him for myself.”

A celebration of his mother’s life is open to the public 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup, he said.

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

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