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Body found in liquor store fridge in Hawaiian Gardens belonged to store’s owner, Hoa Vi Tran

The Beer & Wine Market on Carson Street in Hawaiian Gardens.
The Beer & Wine Market on Carson Street in Hawaiian Gardens.
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The person whose body was discovered bound and gagged, shot to death and stuffed into the refrigerator of a Hawaiian Gardens liquor store has been identified, and it was indeed the store’s owner.

Hoa Vi Tran bought the Beer & Wine Market, located at 12321 Carson St., eight years ago -- soon after the previous owner was fatally stabbed inside the store during a botched robbery, the L.A. Times reports.

Investigators do not believe the two killings are related, but events in that liquor store have rattled neighbors, the Times says.

Tran, 40, was “just as sweet as he can be,” one regular patron told the Times. Others described him as quiet, hardworking and friendly.

Investigators believe Tran was murdered execution-style -- tied up and shot in the head -- not long before his body was discovered by sheriff’s deputies Monday afternoon.

The nature of the murder has investigators theorizing that maybe he was killed over gambling debts. “We know he liked to gamble,” sheriff's Sgt. Steve Rubino told the Times. But Tran’s sister said she didn’t know of any financial trouble her brother was in.

Others told the Times they thought he might have been in trouble, and a neighboring business owner said Tran was looking tired and haggard lately.

For now, sheriff’s investigators are working all leads, and anyone with information is asked to call them at (323) 890-5500.

In 2004, in an unrelated incident at the store, Michael Seamster stabbed then-owner Il Shin Chang in a robbery gone awry. Seamster is serving 25 years to life in prison for the killing.