Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Shootings suspect pleads not guilty

Associated Press

Hayward, Wis. A man accused of shooting six deer hunters to
death and wounding two others after they caught him trespassing in
some northwestern Wisconsin woods pleaded not guilty last week.

Chai Soua Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., waived his right to a
preliminary hearing and will stand trial on six counts of
first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted
homicide stemming from the shootings Nov. 21, the second day of the
Wisconsin gun deer season.

Prosecutors added the third count of attempted homicide last
Wednesday, accusing Vang of making two separate attempts to kill
one hunter.

Vang’s attorney, Steven Kohn, said the defense team was
considering whether Vang should change his plea to not guilty by
reason of insanity, but Kohn did not elaborate. A trial date was
tentatively set for Sept. 12. Vang faces life in prison.

Prosecutors accuse Vang of intentionally killing six hunters and
trying to kill Lauren Hesebeck and Terry Willers, all from the Rice
Lake area, after Vang was asked to leave some private land in
southern Sawyer County where the others were hunting. Prosecutors
accused Vang of trying to kill Hesebeck twice.

Security was tight in the courtroom where a shackled Vang
appeared for the five-minute hearing last week. Two sheriff’s
deputies stood behind Vang, and others were posted throughout the
room. People going into the courtroom passed through a metal
detector.

Willers, with a bandage on his neck where he was shot, watched
the hearing with family members of other victims from the first row
of courtroom benches. Other relatives viewed the hearing from a
nearby room via a closed-circuit television. They declined to speak
to reporters.

The gunfire broke out Nov. 21 after some hunters discovered
Vang, a Hmong immigrant and experienced hunter, in a treestand, a
platform used to look for deer.

Vang has suggested he acted in self-defense, telling
investigators the victims fired a shot at him first and berated him
with racist slurs, according to court documents.

Willers and Hesebeck, though, told investigators no one in their
group pointed a gun at Vang before he opened fire on them,
according to court documents.

Vang remained in jail on $2.5 million bail across the street
from the courthouse, where he has spent most of time sitting
quietly or watching television. He gets mail and visits from family
every week, said Lt. Kurt Barthel, jail administrator.

Vang spoke little in court except to briefly answer Judge Norman
Yackel’s questions. He wore a bulletproof vest between the jail and
courthouse but took it off before the hearing, Barthel said.

Kohn said the defense team had not decided whether to ask the
judge for a change of venue. Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager,
who is prosecuting Vang, said the case should stay in Sawyer
County.

Vang waived the preliminary hearing because prosecutors had
agreed to deliver about 1,300 pages of documents to his attorneys
in the next few days, Kohn said. Those documents include Vang’s
statements to police and preliminary autopsy reports.

Lautenschlager appeared in the courtroom as a prosecutor
Wednesday for the first time since she was elected attorney general
in 2002. She last prosecuted the case of a kidnapper of a
12-year-old girl in the late 1990s, when she was a U.S.
attorney.

In the past year, Lautenschlager, a Democrat up for re-election
in 2006, has been convicted of drunken driving, treated for breast
cancer and required to pay a $250 forfeiture for misuse of a state
vehicle.

Lautenschlager said her recovery from breast cancer should not
stop her from prosecuting the case to the end. She has her last
chemotherapy dose Jan. 6, followed by radiation treatment.

“I’ve been at work and doing my job throughout chemotherapy,”
she said.

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