A Hmong immigrant convicted of murdering six deer hunters and attempting to kill two others after a trespassing dispute was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday with no chance for parole.
Judge Norman Yackel ordered Chai Soua Vang, 37, to serve six life prison terms, one after the other, guaranteeing he would never be freed from prison. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty.
Yackel described Vang as a “time bomb ready to go off” at the slightest provocation.
“These crimes are not isolated acts, but a pattern of anti-social conduct,” the judge said.
Vang, a truck driver from St. Paul, Minn., was convicted on six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted homicide in the Nov. 21 slayings.
The homicide charges carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, but Yackel could have set a parole eligibility date for Vang. The judge also sentenced Vang to three concurrent terms of 40 years in prison on the attempted homicide charges.
The slayings occurred during the state’s beloved deer hunting season and exposed racial tension between the predominantly white north woods residents and immigrants from the Hmong ethnic group.
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager sought the maximum sentence for Vang, a father of seven children. She argued Vang would kill again unless he was locked up for the rest of his life, given his “explosive temperament” and lack of true remorse or regret.
Vang addressed the victims’ families in court Tuesday but did not apologize.
“I understand your anger, your frustration, your grief,” he said.
According to trial testimony, Vang said he got lost, went into a tree stand on the private land and was asked by another hunter, Terry Willers, to leave. Vang said he apologized and started walking away.
Other companions of Willers arrived, and there was an angry verbal confrontation and threats to report Vang to game wardens for trespassing.
Acted out of self-defense?
Vang testified he fired in self-defense after one hunter angrily shouted profanities at him and used racial slurs before another fired at him.
Willers and the other wounded hunter, Lauren Hesebeck, said no one in their group pointed a gun at Vang before he opened fire.
Willers and Hesebeck indicated only one shot was fired at Vang — by Hesebeck, who was already wounded while some of his friends lay mortally wounded on the ground.
Vang was convicted of killing Robert Crotteau, his son Joey Crotteau, Denny Drew, Allan Laski, Jessica Willers and Mark Roidt. All were relatives and friends who gathered to hunt from the Crotteaus’ cabin near Exeland.