Judge allows alternate confession in Hougom homicide caseThe attorney for one of two men charged with killing a La Crosse college student can argue at trial later this month that a 13-year-old instead is responsible for her death, a judge ruled Tuesday.
By: By Anne Jungen, La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Superior Telegram
The attorney for one of two men charged with killing a La Crosse college student can argue at trial later this month that a 13-year-old instead is responsible for her death, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The juvenile confessed during multiple interviews with investigators to shooting Sara Hougom on March 26 in her South Side apartment and having a role in a drive-by shooting earlier that day, attorney John Brinckman said.
Both were gang-related to collect debts, though those involved hit the wrong houses, the juvenile claims.
Prosecutors don't believe the 13-year-old was involved in either crime, charging La Crosse men Kong Vue, 20, and his uncle, Pao Choua Vue, 21, in Hougom's death and the drive-by shooting at 1519 Island St.
Kong Vue told investigators he walked into Hougom's unlocked apartment at 721 Division St. for her purse before he panicked when she moved on the couch and fired twice in her direction. He fled in a car driven by his uncle.
He also said his uncle fired four shots into the Island Street house about 15 minutes before the shooting at Hougom's apartment, according to reports. The same gun was used in both incidents.
Pao Choua Vue's 10-day trial begins Aug. 20 in La Crosse County Circuit Court. Brinckman is required to prove that the juvenile had the motive and opportunity for the shootings before he can use the defense at trial.
He argues the 13-year-old gave investigators facts known only to the shooters and could describe the interior of Hougom's apartment. He downplayed the teen's inconsistent statements, saying defendants tell lies alongside the truth "all the time."
But prosecutors argue the juvenile couldn't keep track of his lies and recited facts of the case provided by investigators. Police couldn't corroborate his stories and say they can prove he provided false information, such as the caliber of the weapon used and the number of shots fired.
"The fact is a lot of things came out of the juvenile's mouth and none of it is legitimate," Assistant District Attorney Emily Hynek said. "He never tells the same story twice."
The teen claims he shot Hougom in the head and that she was bleeding when he fled, Hynek said. She was shot twice in the chest and the injuries did not leave blood at the scene. The juvenile also incorrectly identified her hair color.
The 13-year-old didn't have the opportunity to kill Hougom, Hynek argues.
The teen told investigators he stopped for egg rolls and burned evidence at Goose Island after the killing, though an officer saw him at his house at 4:30 p.m., Hynek said. Hougom called 911 from her cellphone only 12 minutes earlier, just after investigators believe she was shot.
The juvenile also implicated several others in the shootings, though they can provide alibis, prosecutors said.
Circuit Judge Todd Bjerke also granted a request from Brinckman to exclude Kong Vue's statements to investigators from Pao Choua Vue's trial unless Kong Vue testifies.
Brinckman also sought an out-of-county jury, telling the judge Pao Choua Vue is "guilty by association" because of Kong Vue's confession.
But the defense didn't show it's impossible to seat an impartial jury in La Crosse County, said Hynek, who pointed out local jurors heard Eric Koula's recent trial after two years of intense pre-trial publicity. Biased jurors will be eliminated during jury selection, she said.
The judge ruled media coverage hasn't been inflammatory and denied Brinckman's request.
(c)2012 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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