SAN JOSE -- In what legal experts are calling a rarity, police have arrested 18-year-old twin brothers in the deadly stabbing of a San Jose State student trying to break up a fight at a birthday party in the Piedmont Hills neighborhood.

Anh and Duc Tong, of San Jose, were booked into the Santa Clara County jail on suspicion of murder in the death of 22-year-old Richard Phan. They are being held without bail and are tentatively scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

According to San Jose police, Phan was attending a birthday party at a home in the 3400 block of Suncrest Avenue when a fight broke out after 1 a.m. Sunday.

Anh Tong, left, and Duc Tong
Anh Tong, left, and Duc Tong (San Jose police)

Phan, while trying to quell the fracas, was stabbed. He was taken to the hospital, where he died. According to his Facebook page, Phan grew up in San Francisco and attended Lowell High School. Phan was majoring in biology at San Jose State.

The suspects fled the scene and avoided capture Sunday. But investigators, aided by witnesses, culled information that led them to identify and implicate the Tong brothers.

On Monday, SJPD's Metro special-operations unit and its gang-suppression unit tracked and arrested them in San Jose. Police said the brothers attended the party after being invited by another guest but did not detail the build-up to the fight that ended in Phan's death, which marked the city's fourth homicide of 2014.


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Mugshots after their arrests strongly suggest the suspects are identical twins, but police declined to comment on that.

If the suspects are identical twins, it would present an unusual challenge for the prosecution, particularly in gathering witness identification of the suspects, said Steven Clark, a criminal-defense attorney, legal analyst and former Santa Clara County prosecutor.

"I've never seen this," Clark said. "It creates all kinds of potential misidentification issues."

He added that any clarity from DNA evidence could be tempered because if the brothers are identical twins, they share the same DNA. But he believes prosecutors will rely on a multitude of markers -- such as clothing -- to offset any confusion posed by twin suspects.

"You want to make identifications not just based on what they look like. You want to look beyond facial recognition," Clark said. "These party fights in general present challenges because witnesses may be impaired, making it difficult to get reliable testimony."

Anyone with information about the case can contact Detective Sgt. Merlin Newton or Detective Raul Corral at 408-277-5283 or leave a tip with Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-STOP (7867) or with svcrimestoppers.org.