LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – The two men who previously pled guilty to killing a 20-year old La Crosse woman were sentenced to 35 years behind bars Monday.
Kong Vue and his uncle Pao Choua Vue were facing a maximum of 40 years in prison after being charged with first degree reckless homicide in the death of Sara Hougom.
Hougom was shot twice in her apartment on La Crosse's South Side, near 7th and Division Streets, on March 26, 2012.
Prosecutors believe Kong Vue entered the residence with a gun because he found the door ajar.
The pair is believed to have been looking for money.
Kong Vue told police in previous interviews that he panicked when noticed Hougom lying on the couch.
He said he then fired the gun indiscriminately in her direction.
"I can't imagine an animal that would shoot a defenseless woman lying on her couch," said Sara's Father Michael Hougom at Tuesday's sentencing hearing. "These two individuals sped off."
"They had every opportunity to make an anonymous 911 call and save her life," he said. "Every second was precious. They knew that."
Sara's Mother Sherry then recounted the final minutes she spent with her daughter at the hospital, after Sara was wheeled in by medics.
"I begged God, please don't take my baby from me," she said. "Please don't take my baby. I rubbed her feet, I told her stories about how excited I was when she was born."
Sherry Hougom added she has still not turned off the service to her daughter's cell phone, because family members still like calling it – to hear Sara on the voicemail message.
Prior to Sara's arrival at a local hospital, she was found wounded, lying on the same couch on which she'd been shot, by La Crosse Police Officer Dan Ulrich.
"II did CPR on her for about two and a half minutes," he said. "Then, after those two and a half minutes, I got that feeling inside, asking for help."
"I asked God please, help. You've got to help me with this girl," Ulrich said. "She rolled her head over, looked me straight in the eyes, and I just squeezed her hand and said, ‘sweetheart, I know you're hurting. But you have to breathe. You have to stay with me.'"
Before the Judge handed down their sentence, both defendants addressed the standing room only courtroom.
"I was under the influence of drugs at the time," said Pao Choua Vue, who claimed he and Kong had been high on meth. "I should have never been driving and definitely shouldn't have had a gun in the car."
"I have two kids of my own, and I don't know what I would do if I was to lose one of them," said Kong Vue. "Therefore I can't imagine the pain that's been dealt upon you all."
But as more than 20 speakers said before the Judge, no sentence or apology will bring Sara Hougom back.
"My (son) Tim and I had to pick out her headstone," Sherry Hougom said, "A headstone for my 20-year old daughter."
"Because of these two men, Sara wasn't able to celebrate her 21st birthday," said her friend Paige Roth. "She'll never be able to have a family of her own. Or have a career."
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