KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Thursday afternoon, a man was charged with the murder of a woman after deputies and witnesses say he ran her over in a Walmart parking lot.
Xuan Thanh Vo, 37, of Kalamazoo, was charged with open murder on Thursday. A judge denied him bond, saying the court found him to be a “constant danger to the public.”
The victim was 65-year-old Sandra Villarreal, of Kalamazoo, was hit by a maroon sedan in a Walmart parking lot on Tuesday, deputies said.
Vo admitted that he decided he wanted to kill someone with his car on Tuesday, according to a probable cause document. He told investigators that “when he woke up, he was angry and lonely and missed his ex-girlfriend and decided he wanted to kill someone with his car by running them over,” the document reads.
He admitted that he drove to Meijer in Battle Creek to hit and kill someone with his car, but then decided not to.
The Battle Creek police chief told News 8 that his department received a report that a dark-colored sedan drove through the parking lot of a Battle Creek Meijer on Monday and tried to hit a pedestrian. No one was hurt.
It has not been confirmed if the Meijer that Vo drove to was the same one that Battle Creek Police received a report on.
Vo admitted that he then drove to the Meijer in Oshtemo to do the same but decided not to. Then, he told investigators, he drove to the Walmart on 9th Street in Oshtemo.
He told police that he chose the store because the parking lot was empty enough that he could accelerate his car fast enough to hit and kill someone. The probable cause document says Vo “laid in wait” for a person to walk by themselves through the parking lot. He missed the first time, and waited again for her to start walking before speeding up again and hitting her.
That victim was Villarreal.
“He hit the car first … the trunk of the car … and then hit the lady. She flew up into the air actually,” said Angaleyse Foster, who witnessed the incident. “Then, when she came back down, she happened to land right in front of the car. So he had ran her over again.”
The probable cause document confirms Foster’s account.
The Kalamazoo County sheriff held a press conference at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
“We were given a description of an event where the suspect vehicle was seen in the parking lot racing its engine, and at one point drove directly at our victim,” said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller.
Sheriff’s deputies said Vo had “intentionally” hit Villarreal. They added that there was no known relationship between Villarreal and Vo.
A witness told News 8 that the driver walked off after he hit the woman and ran her over.
“He just parked the car and got out. He looked at all of us looking at him and continued to walk off,” Foster said. “He didn’t run, he just walked … kind of going in between cars, trying to blend in … No look back. No anything. Just walked off,” she said.
Fuller said that as Vo walked away, he was followed by a dozen people. They were all trying to call 911 and get help.
Vo was arrested within three minutes with no incident, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies are now looking for more witnesses so they can continue to piece together the investigation.
“We know that this suspect was in other box-store parking lots apparently looking to do the same thing. And so, we are asking for anybody in the Battle Creek or Kalamazoo area, that if you have a suspicious occurrence, something that you saw, something that you thought was weird, involving a vehicle in that area, please contact the sheriff’s office.”
Witnesses or anyone with information related to the suspect or incident should contact the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office at 269.383.8821.
During the arraignment, the judge had to repeat to Vo information about the charges, their nature, his rights and upcoming legal proceedings. Moving forward, the public defender assigned to Vo asked the court for a Vietnamese translator due to a language barrier.
Vo will undergo a mental health evaluation to see if he is competent to stand trial. His next court appearance is Aug. 25.
— News 8’s David Horak contributed to this report.