Kim Nguyen talked to her little sister almost every day.
Though 10 years apart in age, the two women worked at the same beauty supply store, often spent time together with their parents and siblings, and helped each other out whenever needed. When Mai Nguyen moved into a new apartment a few months ago, older sister Kim helped her unpack.
Having not heard from Mai in more than 24 hours despite many efforts to contact her, family members drove to Mai's apartment late Sunday night to check on her.
Kim found the front door open to the LaSalle Avenue home, where her sister's body was facedown in the hallway, dressed in pajamas with one slipper on.
"Shock. I was in shock," she said. "She was my little sister. She still had a long life ahead of her."
Mai Nguyen, 29, had died of two gunshots to the head, said Dr. Beau Clark, the East Baton Rouge coroner.
Police said said they suspect robbery led to the shooting death.
Clark declined to provide information on when exactly she was killed, but family members said they suspect the shooting occurred Saturday night because they last heard from Mai around 4 p.m. that day.
Kim said they saw no evidence suggesting someone had forcefully broken into the apartment but noticed a closet door was opened and items removed from inside. Very few people knew where Mai was living because she had recently moved, her sister said.
Police have not yet identified any suspects.
Mai graduated from Broadmoor High School with a 4.0 GPA and later took some college classes before investing in real estate after the 2016 floods and working in the music industry, her family said. She became a manager and worked with mostly hip hop artists in the Baton Rouge area.
D'Michael Youngblood, a Baton Rouge rapper whom she had been managing for more than a year, described her as hard working and generous — "the type of person who did more than just the job" and embraced her love of music listening to "anything that was good."
"She just wanted to see everybody around her in a position to be successful," he said. "She would aggravate my soul but never in a bad way, always giving me an extra push, extra motivation, more drive. She was a go getter … not selfish at all."
He found out about her death from an Instagram post Monday afternoon. Despite the loss, he plans to "just keep going, keep working hard" because that's what his manager would have wanted.
Mai's father, Daniel Nguyen, said he recently helped her get started flipping houses after the flood. He said she often paid workers in cash, which meant sometimes having large quantities of money in her possession.
She worked hard and enjoyed showing off the things she could afford as a result, according to family. Above all, she was independent.
"I was always telling her to come home, live with us," her dad said. "But she wanted to do things on her own. She was a strong woman. … So much has been taken from me, I don't know what to do now."
Kim said her sister didn't talk much about her personal life and had never been married but had been dating someone for at least the past year.
The Nguyen family moved to Baton Rouge from Texas about 20 years ago and has owned and run a convenience store just south of downtown ever since. Daniel and his wife came to the United States from Vietnam in the 1970s and had four children, including Mai, who was the third youngest.
She lived alone in her apartment with her little dog.
Neighbors at the complex, filled mostly with longtime older residents and retirees, expressed shock at news Monday afternoon.
One woman who declined to give her name said a detective knocked on her door around 8 a.m. Monday and informed her police were investigating a homicide in her building.
"It's pretty shocking, but until I hear otherwise, I'm going to assume that there is no cause for alarm," she said. "I know high homicide numbers come with the territory in Baton Rouge, it's just unusual it happened here. … But I'm trying not to jump to conclusions."