If you’ve ever had a banh mi sandwich, you’ll understand why Philadelphians love a good stroll down around 5th and Washington, scrounging for the next fixing of fresh carrots, cilantro, jalapeno, cucumber, and pork wrapped in a fluffy, soft yet crunchy French baguette.
One spot, located in between 5th and 6th streets on Wash ave, Lee’s Café and Bistro, was one of Philly’s hottest, “hidden” spots to get a mean banh mi. But one March night in 2016, what was supposed to be just another night of food service turned into a brutal homicide.
Thuong Nguyen, 54, a chef at Lee’s, was preparing food in the basement when she was attacked by her coworker. A struggle ensued, kitchen equipment was knocked over and strewn about. Nguyen, bruised in the face, continued to fight with every bit of ferocity she had, but it wasn’t enough. Her attacker slit her throat, and the fight was over.
She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her co-worker was identified by police as Noel Ortea Lemus Del Cid, a 27-year-old Honduran national, 5’6” with a thin-to-medium build. He drives a white SUV and his last known address was 1331 S. 9th Street in Philadelphia.
After a year, he is still at large.
No motive has been established behind Nguyen’s killing. Unless Del Cid is captured and interrogated, we may never learn precisely why he decided to attack and murder his coworker. By all accounts, Nguyen was a perfectly pleasant employee with no history of trouble. Her grisly slaying shocked both employees and regular customers.
One customer said, “I spoke with her a couple times when I’m here buying food and she’s a great person. I wouldn’t imagine anything like this happening to her.”
There is a reward of $20,000 for anyone with information that could lead to Del Cid’s arrest. Anyone with tips can contact Philadelphia Police Department’s homicide unit at 215-686-3334.
Lee’s Café and Bistro has since been closed.