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Location: International Falls, Minnesota
Joined: 06/29/2004
Posts: 59
Vand trial for shooting hunters

9/4/2005 11:00:26 AM
Officials ready for trial

Sawyer County expects Vang case to be expensive
Chuck Rupnow
Leader-Telegram Staff

Sawyer County officials are bracing for the added expense and attention of a nationally publicized murder trial next week, most of which will be broadcast live by Court TV.

Chai Soua Vang, 36, of St. Paul is charged with killing six hunters and wounding two others after a dispute in a Sawyer County woods Nov. 21.

Vang has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense.

Selection of a jury from Dane County will begin Thursday in Madison, with opening statements and testimony planned to begin Saturday at the Sawyer County Courthouse in Hayward.

A beefed-up security force will block off a street between the jail and courthouse.

Sheriff James Meier said his biggest concern is the safety and security of the defendant, witnesses and family members.

“My No. 1 concern is that there is no intermingling between the public and jury because the way the courthouse is laid out, the doors are so close to each other,” he said.

“We’ll put up some barricades and a tent so the jury can’t be seen going in and out of the courthouse.”

Vang, who has had a cellmate, will be transported in a van about 70 yards from the jail across the street to the courthouse.

“We have to take it to the extreme; not saying we expect anything to happen. You just want to take precautions,” said Meier, who added that he is not aware of any threats against Vang.

Meier said deputies from other counties have been hired, all department vacations have been canceled and jail personnel are working 12-hour shifts during the trial.

“This is definitely a challenge,” Meier said. “One of our investigators (Gary Gilles) has lived and breathed this. There hasn’t been anything left undone in this.”

Meier said there will be six people on security detail outside the courthouse, with 11 security people inside, not counting state agents and other officials. Regular courthouse personnel will have identification tags.

Costly trial

With police officers stationed in and around the courthouse during the trial, beefed-up security is expected to cost the county about $100,000, Meier said.

And costs for the jury, which will be sequestered, are estimated at more than $20,000. The costs will vary with the length of the trial, which is expected to last less than two weeks.

Meier has met with county committees regarding cost overruns.

“They understand there’s nothing we can do other than provide the necessary services,” Meier said.

Sawyer County Clerk Kris Mayberry said the county has a reserve cash flow.

“We have not been given any firm numbers. We know it’s going to be expensive,” Mayberry said Wednesday. “We’re braced for it.

“We have a reserve, but we don’t like to spend that down too much,” he said. “We will appeal to the state for any help they can give us on this.”

Kelly Kennedy, spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, said Friday the state will absorb prosecution expenses, including costs for lodging, travel and expert witnesses.

Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager is the special prosecutor in the case.

“We have a budget for these things when we act as special prosecutor in cases,” Kennedy said.

Media attention

Jerry Sondreal, editor of the Amery Free Press, is media coordinator for the trial. About 30 reporters are expected to follow the proceedings, he said.

There will be one television feed and two still photographers.

Court TV will be at the entire trial but will broadcast live only on weekdays, said Lucie Schwartz, an associate producer for the cable channel. Action from Saturday sessions will be taped and broadcast on Mondays, she said Friday.

The first live broadcast will be Monday, Sept. 12, likely the second day of testimony.

“This case has gotten a lot of attention and is a rather high-profile case, which is why we’re going to be there,” Schwartz said.

Hunting tragedy

Vang is charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the deaths of Joey Crotteau, 20; Robert Crotteau, 42; Denny Drew, 55; Allan Laski, 43; Mark Roidt, 28; and Jessica Willers, 27.

He also is charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for the injuries sustained by Lauren Hesebeck, 48, and Terry Willers, 48.

Vang is represented by four Milwaukee attorneys.

Each of the homicide charges carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The attempted murder charges have a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, with a five-year enhancer for using a dangerous weapon.

Vang’s version of the events differs from those of Hesebeck and Terry Willers.

Of the six killed, four were shot in the back, autopsy reports show, while the others died from wounds to the abdomen and head.

According to the criminal complaint:

Terry Willers encountered Vang in a tree stand on private property between Birchwood and Exeland. Vang said he was lost but admitted he had hunted before in the area. He was in the tree stand about 15 minutes before Willers arrived.

Willers asked Vang, a marksman with military training, to leave and followed him as he walked down a trail. Willers had his gun slung over his shoulder as Robert Crotteau, Joe Crotteau, Drew, Roidt and Hesebeck arrived on ATVs.

Robert Crotteau told Vang he was trespassing, told him to leave the property and used profanity. Willers said no one touched or threatened Vang.

Willers said Vang pointed his gun at Willers and others who had turned their ATVs around to go back to the cabin.

Willers then held his gun in front of his body but did not point it at Vang.

Vang, who is Hmong, said the hunters made racial slurs and an obscene gesture. He said that a shot was fired at him before he shot back.

Vang said he fired at Willers and then shot at others, who he thought were going for guns on their ATVs. No guns, gun cases or gun racks were on the ATVs.

Vang said he shot the Crotteaus as they were running from him toward the cabin, yelling for help. Vang then shot Jessica Willers and Laski, who were unarmed when they arrived on an ATV.

Vang said he threw his ammunition into a swamp. About an hour later he decided to turn himself in when he heard a search plane. However, a DNR warden said Vang did not turn himself in when the warden recognized and arrested him.

The shootings started at about 12:30 p.m., and Vang was arrested about five hours later, about 3½ miles from the shooting scene

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Location: International Falls, Minnesota
Joined: 06/29/2004
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Vang’s violent history detailed today

Vang’s violent history detailed

Leader-Telegram Staff

HAYWARD — Convicted murderer Chai Soua Vang has a history of violent behavior, including pointing a gun at one of his wives in 2001 and almost killing her another time, according to a psychologist’s report.

Following a six-day trial last month, a Dane County jury found the 37-year-old St. Paul man guilty Sept. 16 of six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted homicide.

The charges stemmed from Nov. 21 shootings that occurred after Vang was found trespassing in a tree stand on private land in southern Sawyer County. Six Rice Lake area hunters were killed, and two others were wounded.

Sawyer County Judge Normal Yackel released a report this morning by Dr. Robert Rawski, a psychiatrist with the Wisconsin Forensic Unit who examined Vang Aug. 19 at the Sawyer County Jail.

In that report, Rawski lists several instances in which Vang mentions physical altercations with his second wife. Vang also said he considered running motorists off the road while he worked as a truck driver.

Rawski, in his evaluation, said Vang suffers from major depressive disorder but that he understands the legal system and is of average intelligence.

Vang “has a chronic history of poor adjustment to stressful interpersonal situations, perceived transgressions and limitations to his freedom,” according to the report.

During his trial, the Hmong immigrant, an avid bow and rifle hunter since the early 1990s, testified that he fired at the hunters in self-defense after one shouted profanities and racial slurs at him before another fired on him. The two surviving hunters testified Vang shot first.

For the six months before his arrest, Vang had worked transporting semitrailer trucks and had a second job delivering auto parts, according to Rawski’s eight-page report.

The psychologist’s evaluation also contained the following:

n Vang was short-tempered as a teenager and frequently got in fights when ridiculed by peers.

n He was married at age 14 while in eighth grade, which is common in the Hmong tradition, to a girl he “strongly disliked.” He got into a fight with her a week after their marriage while doing his paper route, and his father tried to punish him, so he ran out onto Interstate 94 and tried to commit suicide.

n On Christmas Eve 2001, Vang reportedly almost killed his wife with a handgun after an argument over the presence of one of his hunting friends at the family dinner. He spent three days in jail for pointing a gun at her. He failed to fire when his daughter stepped in the way to protect her mother.

n Vang had five children with his first wife, who now lives in Milwaukee with the children. The couple divorced in 2002. (He has two other daughters, one each from his second and third wives.)

n In 2003, after his second wife gambled away $3,000 he intended to spend on the purchase of rental property, he was so mad that “he choked and almost killed” her.

n He took a job as an over-the-road truck driver in 1996 to avoid home and the tumultuous relationship with his wife. He would call her while driving and get into fights, leading him to consider driving off the road in suicide attempts.

n As a truck driver, Vang had “numerous confrontations with other motorists. He considered using his rig to run motorists off the road who had verbally berated him for driving too slowly or being in their way.”

n While in jail, Vang said he has had nightmares about the victims returning to choke him and force him to eat cockroaches.

n He also said he’s been plagued by an evil shaman’s voice since 1995, telling him to hurt, hit or kill those who have upset him. He asked a jailer on Nov. 24 to shoot him because of the voices.

n He and his current wife decided to publicize his case in the St. Paul area as a matter of self-defense to solicit interest from Hmong attorneys in the area. His wife urged him to “continue to fight his case in order to maintain the appearance of his contention of self-defense regardless of whether or not it was an accurate portrayal of the incident.”

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