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Crime News Domestic Violence

Houston Man Gets 55 Years For Murdering Wife Amid Custody Dispute In 2015

Itani Losangel Milleni, whose name was Trang Vu at the time, bludgeoned his wife, Tuyet Tran, to death with an ax in her salon amid a custody dispute. He then changed his name and abandoned the kids entirely.

By Megan Carpentier
Husbands Who Killed Their Wives

A Houston man convicted of murdering his wife with an ax in 2015 has been sentenced to 55 years in prison for the crime.

Itani Losangel Milleni, 52, was sentenced to 55 years in prison on Thursday for the July 2015 murder of his wife, Tuyet Tran, 49, according to a press release from the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Milleni was found guilty in September after a six-day trial and just 25 minutes of deliberations, the release added.

At the time of the murder, Milleni's legal name was Trang Vu. He legally changed it three months after the murder.

Tran and her husband were estranged at the time of her death after years of domestic violence to which Milleni allegedly admitted, according to documents in a federal civil suit later brought against Milleni and reviewed by Oxygen.com. Milleni (then Vu) allegedly beat his wife with his hands, a belt and furniture in front of family members and her employees and said on camera that one of his mistakes in his marriage had been "taking care of my business" — by which he meant abusing Tran — in front of witnesses, according to the federal suit.

RELATED: West Virginia Man Allegedly Confessed To Killing Wife Of One Month On Thanksgiving Argument

The abuse led to both police intervention — they were allegedly called five times but never arrested the husband, according to reporting by the Associated Press — and the removal of the couple's underage children from the marital home. 

Tran subsequently moved out of the couple's home, began divorce proceedings and sought a restraining order against her husband, though it was not granted prior to her death.

On the morning of July 20, 2015, a new caseworker with the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (TDFPS) contacted Milleni (then Vu) and Tran to set up separate meetings to discuss the ongoing custody of the children. Tran agreed to meet the woman at her salon the following day; her husband went to the caseworker's office at 3:00 p.m. and left "angry and upset," according to her testimony in the lawsuit.

A police handout of Itani Milleni

He then went to Tran's salon around 6:00 p.m., while clients and employees were still there. After the final clients left, Milleni (then Vu) claimed that a Black man walked into the salon, looked around and walked out without saying anything. He then went to his car — where he normally kept a handgun and an ax — retrieved the gun and returned to the salon for Tran's protection during closing. He claimed that he stayed for only 15 minutes after the remaining employees left, then left Tran there alone, went to go buy her flowers and returned home.

He never bought any flowers, according to the federal lawsuit.

A police handout of victim Tuyet Tran

Tran was bludgeoned to death with an ax in the salon around 8:40 p.m. on July 20, 2015 and discovered by her employees the next morning. Though there were superficial signs of a robbery, neither the emptied cash register nor the open door had been forced, Tran's own visible cash and credit cards were not stolen, her cell phone was found smashed, not stolen, in a garbage can and her missing car was found a block away with a smashed window and the keys in the ignition, according to documents in a federal civil suit later brought against Milleni and reviewed by Oxygen.com.

Audio obtained from surveillance cameras of neighboring businesses — containing a woman's screams and three audible thumps — suggest the attack began at 8:17 p.m. and did not conclude until 8:41 p.m., according to the AP.

The ax that Tran's husband normally kept in his car was never found.

Within three months of the murder, Trang Vu changed his name to Itani Losangel Milleni, took a job as an interstate truck driver and relinquished his kids to the state of Texas.

Then, in October 2015, Trang Vu applied for the proceeds of a $275,000 life insurance policy his wife had taken out on herself in 2008; he was named as the primary beneficiary, while the couple's children were named as contingent beneficiaries. The insurance company discovered that he was considered a suspect in her death and refused to pay until he was cleared.

The insurance company filed a federal lawsuit in September 2017 to determine which beneficiaries they should pay, with the children — then high schoolers still in the custody of TDFPS — as co-plaintiffs against their father. They settled in March 2019 and irrevocable trusts in the children's names were established in late April, according to court records reviewed by Oxygen.com.

Millenni was arrested for his wife's murder in Indiana on April 20, 2019, according to the Associated Press, and eventually extradited to Texas. The evidence collected as a result of the lawsuit over his wife's life insurance money has been deemed responsible for his arrest.

His initial trial in the case was well underway in June when a mistrial was declared after the Harris County District Clerk hosted a "juror appreciation" event at which jurors in his case and others were thanked for bring justice to victims' families — which is not their role in the court system — according to the Houston Chronicle.

His second trial resulted in his conviction.

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