The children of convicted killer Leuth Sengsongkham tearfully asked a Superior Court judge on Thursday to have mercy on him for murdering their mother and her lover in a field south of Fresno in April 2015.
Even the niece of murder victim Somkeo Thongkhamvilay, who was having an affair with Sengsongkham’s wife, said her family would not object if Sengsongkham received a lesser sentence.
Judge Gary Hoff said he was impressed by the love and support Sengsongkham’s children expressed for him. But Hoff said he could not overlook the fact that Sengsongkham had “ambushed” his wife, Rattana Chounramany, and Thongkhamvilay. So Hoff sentenced Sengsongkham to 90 years to life in prison.
Sengsongkham and his children cried throughout the hearing. Through an interpreter, he said: “I’m sorry. That’s all I can say. I made a mistake. I blacked out. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
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I’m sorry. That’s all I can say.
Convicted killer Leuth Sengsongkham
Hoff, however, said Sengsongkham, 62, didn’t have to kill his wife and Thongkhamvilay. He said Sengsongkham should have endured the heartache and pain of a separation or divorce. “Your acts ruined your life and severely impacted your family,” Hoff said in announcing the punishment.
A jury last month deliberated less than a day before finding Sengsongkham guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of his wife and guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of Thongkhamvilay, a longtime friend of Sengsongkham’s family.
During Sengsongkham’s t rial, prosecutor William Lacy said Sengsongkham shot Thongkhamvilay six times and Chounramany twice on April 18, 2015 in a field where all three worked near Chestnut and Adams avenues. He left both bodies in the field and drove to Henderson, Nevada to visit one of his daughters.
After Sengsongkham told his daughter what he had done, she took him to the police station in Henderson, where he surrendered and confessed. Sengsongkham’s relatives found the two bodies in the field shortly after and called the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
During the trial, defense attorney Roberto Dulce told the jury that Sengsongkham and his wife had seven children, and that he attempted to reconcile with her after he discovered she was cheating on him. But she did not want to get back together.
“He just lost it,” Dulce told the jury.
Leuth Sengsongkham, 62, shot his wife and her lover on April 18, 2015 in a field where all three worked south of Fresno.
In court Thursday, Sengsongkham’s children told their father that they loved him and forgave him. “Because of how we were raised, we will persevere through these darkest days,” a sobbing Jason Sengsongkham said. “I will be the son you want me to be and one day I will hold you again, hug you and tell you how much we love you.”
Lena Thongkhamvilay, who is Thongkhamvilay’s niece, told the judge that her family harbored no ill feelings toward Sengsongkham. “It’s been hard for both families,” she told the judge. “If you give a lesser sentence that is fine with us. It is hard for them to lose their father.”
But Hoff said the manner in which Sengsongkham carried out the killings without warning required the maximum punishment.
Sengsongkham will be eligible for early release after serving 25 years in prison under the state’s Elderly Parole Program.
After the hearing, Sengsongkham’s children wiped tears as they left the courtroom. One of his children, Joann Chounramany, and Lena Thongkhamvilay hugged each other in a show of support.