Two Wichita men were ordered to stand trial for first-degree murder Friday after a third suspect in the case testified that he watched as one of the men cut the victim’s throat with an “arm-length” hunting knife.
Caesar K. Louis, 25, and Jerry Thatch, 23, will be arraigned next week on the murder charge as well as one count each of aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery.
The men are charged in the Aug. 4 death of Pheng Xiong, who was found dead in his home at 830 S. Erie by a roommate. At their preliminary hearing on Friday, prosecutors said the defendants forced their way into Xiong’s home and took his cellphone after killing him.
The third suspect, Vat Sana Khamvongsa, 24, testified Friday that the killing was the result of an earlier confrontation between Xiong and some friends of one of the other defendants. Before he testified, Khamvongsa agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and testify against the other defendants in the case.
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Khamvongsa said that after a night in Old Town, he and the other defendants were gathered inside a home when someone mentioned a desire to find Xiong and seek revenge for the earlier confrontation. He said he thought the other men might want to beat Xiong up, and he said he never saw a knife until he got to Xiong’s house.
Khamvongsa, who said he “was just tagging along” that night, said one of the men entered Xiong’s locked house through a side window. He said they eventually took Xiong into the bedroom. He said Thatch held Xiong’s feet as Louis cut his throat.
The only other witness to testify at the preliminary hearing was the roommate, Lisa Koeun, 17, who said she had met Xiong through a cousin and had been staying at his house during the summer. Koeun said she arrived home about 8 a.m. on Aug. 4 and found the front door unlocked.
“It was weird because he never leaves his door unlocked,” she said.
She said she found Xiong in his bedroom.
“I saw him laying on the bed,” she said as she struggled to keep her composure. “There was blood. His throat was slit open.”
At the close of the hearing, District Judge Clark Owens ruled that there was probable cause to bind both suspects over for trial. The men will enter pleas when they are arraigned on Dec. 27.