Crime & Courts

Key witness in 2012 homicide couldn’t ‘get over’ what he saw

A man in his mid-30s was found dead in a house in the 800 block of South Erie, between Hillside and Grove, shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday. (Aug. 4, 2012)
A man in his mid-30s was found dead in a house in the 800 block of South Erie, between Hillside and Grove, shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday. (Aug. 4, 2012) File photo

For three days, Wichita homicide detectives had few leads in the Aug. 4, 2012, death of Pheng Xiong, who was found with his throat slashed on a Saturday morning in his home at 830 S. Erie.

“As Tuesday rolls around, they don’t have any suspects,” Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Amyx told a jury Tuesday. “They don’t have any indication of who committed the crime.”

The status of the investigation quickly changed, Amyx said, when a man walked into a police substation and told officers that he knew what had happened.

“He said he can’t get over what he has seen, and he wants to talk to police about it,” Amyx said.

The man, Vat Sana Khamvongsa, 24, is expected to be a key witness this week in the first-degree murder trial of Jerry Thach, 24, in the death of Xiong, who was known to his friends as “Panky.”

Amyx said Thach was one of four men who went to Xiong’s home seeking revenge after Xiong made comments that they thought were disrespectful.

After breaking into Xiong’s home, Amyx said, Thach held Xiong’s legs as Caesar Louis threatened him with a large hunting knife.

“Caesar asks if Panky has any last words,” Amyx said. “And then he cuts Panky’s throat ear to ear, while the defendant is holding his legs.”

Louis, 25, was sentenced to more than 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.

Khamvongsa pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify for the prosecution. When he is sentenced, prosecutors will recommend that he be sentenced to 123 months in prison.

A fourth suspect in the case, who went by the nickname “Joker,” has not been found.

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