Family of slain fruit vendor Don Ly seeks answers, gets silence

Don Ly Murder Remains Unsolved
Nary Ly lights a candle at a memorial to her father outside the family home.
Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

It’s been more than four months since popular fruit cart vendor and hardworking father of four Don Ly, 68, was stabbed to death outside his South Philadelphia home as he prepared for work, a senseless slaying with no apparent motive.

“It’s been silence,” Ly’s son Hoanh Ly said Tuesday at the family home on Vollmer Street. ”It’s been horrible. We just expected somebody to come forward but so far, nothing.”

Ly’s daughter Nary Ly said the crime – and its lack of resolution – has taken a harsh toll on her family.

Don Ly Murder Remains Unsolved
Nary Ly broke down into tears as she discussed memories of her slain father.
Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

Each day, as Nary rounds the hallway into the living room, she expects to see Don nestled in his regularly appointed spot in the corner of a well-worn sectional.

“No matter what, I come in and I always look for my dad to be sitting there,” she said.

“We miss him so hard, I don’t know what to do. I open the closet, see his clothes, I smell his clothes–”

Nary’s voice broke as she dissolved into tears.

She said Don’s death has been especially hard on Saruong, her mother and Don’s wife of 42 years.

“My mother used to say thousands of words a day,” she said. ”Now she says maybe 50.”

She said Saruong stopped eating and has dropped about 50 percent of her body weight since the murder.

“She has talked about ending her life so she can be with him,” Nary said.

“But she still has us children.”

‘We never expected this’

Don Ly Murder Remains Unsolved
Nary and Hoanh Ly with a portrait of their late father Don.
Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

As commemorated in a heart-wrenching blog maintained by Don’s youngest son, Don Ly was a senior Buddhist monk, then a communication liaison police officer in Vietnam before immigrating in 1990 to America, where he worked tirelessly to build a life for himself and to support his family.

“He worked very hard,” Nary said.

“I always asked him before, I said, ‘Daddy, when will you retire?’ He’d say, ‘I still can work so I just go to work. I always want to go to work. I don’t want to say home and do nothing.’ He wanted to help the family until to that moment, to the last minute.”

Hoanh said he and his siblings believed Don would soon stop working so they could take care of him, as he had taken care of them for so many years.

“All the plans are gone – we never expected this,” Hoanh said.

Suspect with a face but no name

Don Ly Murder Remains Unsolved
A memorial to Don Ly outside the family home.
Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

Police in May released surveillance footage showing a suspect in the brutal crime.

Hoanh said he watches it often, but mostly to see how many people have viewed the YouTube video.

“I know the guy’s somewhere,” he said. ”He probably sleeps somewhere. He must have a brother, sister, a parent somewhere that know him and they’re actually hiding him.”

The Citizen’s Crime Commission has added $5,000 to the city’s standard $20,000 reward for information leading to homicide convictions, but investigators said tips have so far been fruitless.

Don’s family in the meantime agonizes over the fact the suspect remains free on the street.

“He does not deserve to sleep on the bed just like we are,” Hoanh said.

“He does not deserve to eat the food just like we are. He deserves to eat the food in the prison, prison food in a prison cell, prison bed, that’s what he deserves. And we don’t know who he is and where he is.”

See something?

Take a good look at the suspect in Don Ly’s slaying, shown below in surveillance video released by police.

Anyone with information about the suspect or crime is asked to call 911, to contact the Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334 or 3335, or to submit an anonymous tip by dialing 215-686-TIPS (8477), texting PPD TIP (773847), emailing tips@phillypolice.com or by filling out this online form.


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