Hmong killer of Wisconsin hunters sentenced to life

By Eileen Nimm

HAYWARD, Wisconsin (Reuters) – A Hmong immigrant convicted
of killing six hunters was sentenced on Tuesday to life in
prison without the possibility of parole.

“These were six horrific crimes,” Sawyer County Judge
Norman Yackel told the same courtroom where a jury found Chia
Soua Vang, 37, guilty in September.

Vang opened fire last November after being confronted by
deer hunters who threatened him for trespassing on private land
near Rice Lake in Wisconsin’s North Woods. Vang chased down
some unarmed victims and shot them in the back.

Vang, who emigrated from his native Laos as a child and
joined Minnesota’s large Hmong ethnic group, was given six life
sentences and will never be paroled, the judge said.

“Mr. Vang has a history of anger, violent anti-social
conduct and his low moral character shows that he is unable to
be rehabilitated,” Yackel said.

“The method he used to kill his victims was unspeakable and
brutal. He even executed them when they were crying out for
help,” he added.

Vang first lied to investigators about who did the
shooting, then claimed he was fired at first as he tried to
leave and shot those who tried to flee because he thought they
were going for their guns.

One of the victims was Jessica Willers, whose fianc© Craig
Schuh told the courtroom the couple had planned a July wedding
and had bought a house together.

“We had hope for a future that was taken away,” Schuh said.

Vang, appearing much less animated than his shouted trial
testimony, said: “My life is over. But all of you out there
still have your life and I hope everyone learns something from
this tragedy, to live in peace with one another.”

Vang, a truck driver who won respect in his St. Paul
community for taking on the role of a shaman, told
psychologists before his trial that an evil shaman had entered
his head. He also related visions of running other drivers off
the road.

The murders underlined frictions between native hunters and
the Hmong, who were avid hunters in their Southeast Asian
homeland and were enlisted by the United States to fight the
Vietnamese during the war.

“I hope this doesn’t turn into a racial issue,” said
Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who helped
prosecute the case. “I hope that life will get back to normal
in the North Woods.”

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