The windows looking into the now-closed Mini Mart convenience store at the Peaks at Papago Park apartment complex are dark.
They are similar to the eyes of Paul and Alisa Ea, the husband and daughter of Nisay Kang, who often worked 14 hours a day at the Phoenix store while fulfilling a dream to operate her own business.
The tight-knit Cambodian family whose members live in Chandler had their plan of growing old together and having the extra money in their golden years brutally shattered one week ago by an unemployed man they knew and often gave merchandise to when he couldn’t pay.
Jesus Arturo-Martinez, 20, who lived in the 768-unit complex, confessed to assaulting and killing Kang with a pair of scissors, according to police. He is being held in Maricopa County’s Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix on suspicion of first-degree murder.
“I want this guy on death row,” Paul Ea said. “People like this are the scum of the earth. (Martinez) and his girlfriend would always tell us, ‘You are so nice to us’ — I guess this is how he repays us. Someday I might forgive him — when they put the needle in his arm and he takes his last breath.”
Kang, 36, was killed May 25 inside the store the couple began operating in December at the gated complex near the Tempe-Scottsdale border.
When Ea ends his work days as a technician at General Dynamics in Scottsdale, he no longer will spend afternoons and evenings at the store helping Nisay stock the shelves or wait on customers.
Ea said he never had a problem with Martinez, but he recently noticed when he came into the store his breath smelled of alcohol.
“I would tell my wife I was worried about him, but she said he was just stressed out because he didn’t have a job. I don’t know why he would do this to us.”
When Charles Smihuly, a fiveyear resident and maintenance worker at the complex, walked into the store to get something to drink about 9 a.m. that day, he told police he discovered Kang’s body lying in a pool of blood on the floor.
“It was horrific,” Smihuly said.
Police said they have a witness who claims he saw Martinez walking out the back of the store with a purse in his hand.
In the family’s home where it’s a custom to remove shoes and sit on the floor out of respect for the quiet and private Cambodian culture, Ea told The Tribune of the love for his wife and his anger against her suspected murderer.
“We had a dream, and that ... tore it apart,” Ea said. “He destroyed my family. My wife worked very hard and did not deserve this. She was always happy, and she was always glad to see everyone from the complex come inside the store and talk with her. I didn’t like to see her work as hard as she did, but she always wanted to help provide for the family. When I would peek at her working inside the store, I saw how happy she was.”
The couple, who celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in December, bought the business from a friend for $55,000. They were leasing the building from the complex for $1,050 a month.
Kang had previously worked various jobs including as a poker and blackjack dealer at Casino Arizona, but she wanted to run her own business, Ea said.
He spent a lot of his savings and 401(k) retirement funds to buy the business and lease the store. He now plans to talk to the broker about selling it.
Ea, who emigrated to the United States in 1983 when he was 12 years old, said he went back to his homeland in 1996 for about a month to wed Nisay in an arranged marriage by his mother, Sameach, and Nisay’s mother, Charoun Nhoek, who were close friends in Battambang, Cambodia.
Ea’s and Kang’s father died during the violent Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s. Ea said his father was killed by the communists, and Kang’s father died of starvation.
Their children strived for a better life.
Ea said he was friends with a girl in California, but the two mothers urged him to meet Nisay.
“I knew,” he said. “She had a beautiful smile, and she had a little bit of spice to her. We believe her soul is here at home with us.”
Ea said the family has kept Alisa, who just finished third grade, busy playing with cousins to help keep her mind off the tragedy.
Alisa, 8, who liked to shop with her mother and grandmother, wrote 20 things that describe her mother — beautiful, nice, funny, silly and gentle, among others.
Ea often told his wife the only way to love is to keep talking to people. And now, Alisa talks to her mother as if she’s home.
“She’s the greatest mommy in the world,” she said. “I’ll remember her love. She was a nice person.”
Joyce Alvarado, an area resident who was friendly with Kang, often would visit her in the store.
“She taught my daughter how to eat with chopsticks, and Nisay told me I would have to show her how to make enchiladas, but she would say ‘chim-chiladas,’” she said with a chuckle.
“Nisay was a little lady with a fighting spirit,” Ea said. “She was always happy and wanted to work hard to help the family, and she did. She will always be in my heart.”
Funeral services for Nisay Kang:
Noon Saturday at Tempe Mortuary, 405 E. Southern Ave., Tempe. Interment will follow at Paradise Memorial Crematory, 6300 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale.
Nisay Kang memorial carwash fundraiser:
8 a.m. June 9 at the Peaks at Papago Park apartment complex, 815 N. 52nd St. (between McDowell Road and Van Buren Street), Phoenix.
Information: (602) 350-3082 or (602) 275-4466.