Crime

4 teen girls relive night of flying bullets

One by one, four girls took the witness stand Thursday. Each of them was asked whether she was nervous. They all said, "Yes."

The girls told jurors about Jan. 31, 2006 -- a day they spent with family members cooking food and playing cards at an apartment complex in southeast Fresno.

Then they told jurors about the hail of bullets that sprayed across the apartment parking lot later that night and killed 20-year-old Nath Ouch, who was eight months pregnant.

On that night, the girls -- all teenagers -- were in a parked car waiting for a ride home. It was close to midnight.

Ouch, who was carrying a pot of soup to bring home to her boyfriend, was walking across the parking lot toward the car.

Then the shooting began.

"It was booming," Ouch's cousin, Mindy Bualai, testified. "I put my head down and all the girls start screaming."

Mindy, who said she was 14 at the time, jumped out of the car. She found Ouch lying on the ground. The soup had spilled onto the pavement.

A bullet had ripped through Ouch's back. Her unborn baby later died when the mother's heart stopped beating, prosecutor Jon Skiles said.

"She wanted to say something, but she couldn't because the blood started coming out of her mouth," Mindy said.

On trial in Fresno County Superior Court are four defendants: Sokol Yann, Jonathon Abenido Perkins, Sokmorn Chea and Boualy Mangsanghanh.

Each one is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ouch and her unborn child. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Skiles said members of the Asian Boyz gang fired randomly at Ouch and others in the parking lot that night because they believed members of the rival Tiny Rascal Gang lived in the apartment complex.

Fresno police detective George Von Euw said Ouch was not a gang member. He said her 24-year-old husband, Chanbory Nop, used to have gang ties but was not at the apartment complex that night.

Two weeks after his wife's slaying, Nop shot himself to death.

The girls who testified Thursday, who were all related to Ouch, said they heard about six or seven shots fired. But across the street on the Easterby Elementary School grounds at the corner of Tulare Street and Peach Avenue, investigators later found more than 30 shell casings for an AK-47 rifle and a handgun.

Photographs entered into evidence Thursday showed crime scene markers scattered across a grassy area near the school's flagpole. Each marker indicated where a shell casing had fallen.

Originally, 10 people were charged in connection with the slayings. An 11th man, Jose Angel Perez, 22, has yet to be apprehended.

Perez and Chea are the only two defendants accused of shooting at Ouch.

Four defendants have either pleaded no contest or guilty to voluntary manslaughter and will receive sentences of up to 21 years in prison. Three of those men are expected to testify in the trial.

One defendant pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and will receive a sentence of up to three years in prison. Another was declared incompetent to stand trial.

Mangsanghanh, 21, is charged with murder because she drove her car to the elementary school and was part of the plot to kill rival gang members, Skiles said. Defense attorney Ernest Kinney said his client is not a gang member and that she believed she was just giving her boyfriend and his friends a ride.

Yann, 32, is accused of masterminding the attack, though he was not at the scene of the slayings. Defense attorney David Mugridge said his client was in a drunken stupor that night and was not the instigator.

Chea, 27, is accused of being one of the two men to shoot at Ouch. Defense attorney Phillip Cherney said his client was never at the scene of the crime and that there is no forensic evidence to connect him to the slayings.

Perkins, 23, is accused of trying to get a car to scout out the apartment complex, but crashed the car before the shooting occurred. Defense attorney Eric Green said there is no evidence Perkins tried to get the car.

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