Phonthip Ott Discovered Dead in California River; Spouse Dennis Ott, US Coast Guard, Convicted of Murder and Sentenced to Life in Prison (1992)

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Petty Office Dennis Ott, US Coast Guard, and Phonthip Boonack Ott (photo: 48 Hours)

Phonthip (Boonack) Ott, 33, disappeared from her home in California on May 17, 1992. A couple months later, Phonthip Ott’s dead body was discovered in the Sacramento River near Sacramento. Phonthips body was stuffed in a large nylon duffle bag about 5 feet tall. It was held down with H-shaped cement anchors. The day their mother disappeared, Phonthip’s daughters, Tippy Dhaliwal, 14, and Jeanette Marine, 10, spent the day with their grandparents. Upon their return home, the two girls sensed something was wrong when their mother wasn’t home and immediately suspected their stepfather of killing her. Dennis Ott was an active duty petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and his relationship with Phonthip was tumultuous. There was interpersonal violence and adultery on both sides but it appears the domestic violence escalated with Dennis; he was jealous and possessive of Phonthip and didn’t like that she was having affairs. At one point in the relationship, Dennis threatened her life and this is when Phonthip decided to file for a restraining order and a divorce. It would be this same day, May 17th, that Phonthip would disappear.

At first, it appeared Dennis Ott was not going to be held accountable as he continued to go to work at the Coast Guard station day after day. Then one day, a 16 year old Tippy, wrote a letter to the district attorney and the Coast Guard about her mother’s case. It would be this letter that reinvigorated interest in the homicide case and after further investigation, Ott was arrested in November 1994. The duffel bag found at the crime scene was issued to Coast Guard personnel only. The H-shaped cement anchors at the crime scene matched those found in Ott’s backyard. And there appeared to be a history of escalating domestic violence that ended in murder because Phonthip wanted to leave him (rejection). In 1995, Dennis Ott was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The two sisters hope Dennis Ott remains in prison for the rest of his life and plan to attend all the parole hearings in the future. After 20 years in prison, Dennis was eligible for parole in California. His first parole hearing was denied because the parole board felt he was too evasive and wouldn’t admit culpability.

Dennis Ott has always maintained his innocence and continues to say he did not kill his wife. Dennis Ott is up for a parole hearing again in October 2017, only two years after his last parole hearing. Both sisters share that every parole hearing re-victimizes them because they have to re-live the traumatic events of the day they lost their mother.

“I don’t believe I will be a danger to society.” -Dennis Ott

Related Links:
Calif. sisters fight to keep mother’s killer behind bars
“48 Hours” preview: Crime and punishment
48 Hours: Remembering Phonthip Ott
48 Hours: Sheriff zeroes in on a murder suspect
48 Hours: The possibility of parole
48 Hours: Murder victim’s daughters share their emotional journey
The possibility of parole: “48 Hours” examines life after a murder verdict
Phonthip Ott Murder: Crime and Punishment
Scoop: 48 HOURS on CBS – Saturday, January 7, 2017
California Sisters: Keep our mom’s killer behind bars!
Phonthip Boonack, Dennis Ott: ’48 Hours’ Reels In Case Of Missing Mother Found Dead in California River
‘He deserves to rot in prison’: Sisters fight to keep their mother’s killer behind bars as he comes up for parole 25 years after the victim’s body was pulled from a river in a weighted duffel bag
Sisters receive award for courage after mom’s death


A stepfather sits in prison for killing his wife. Her daughters vow to keep him there. Does he deserve parole? -48 Hours