August 22, 2008

Murder suspect found dead

FRESNO -- Bobbie Johnson bought beer for the guy who slept in a garage down the street from his north Sacramento home.

Ma Phompong, 28, apparently returned the favor by shooting Johnson's longtime companion dead. Then Phompong beat the man who befriended him halfway to the grave.

On Thursday, Phompong, a parolee from Stanislaus County, apparently killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Fresno.

The apparent suicide ended a 12-hour standoff with police and a manhunt that began the night before with the shooting death of Anna McCaleb, 61, and the attack on John- son, 59, that left him with a broken eye socket.

"I just hope nobody else has to go through something like this in their life," said Ginger Ferguson, Johnson's sister. "People have to be very careful about who they befriend and let into their homes because you never know."

Ferguson said Thursday that her brother was undergoing facial reconstruction surgery to repair bones that shattered when he was hit in the eye. She said he did not know McCaleb was dead.

"I don't want him to give up," Ferguson said. "Trying to keep his will is the main thing we're trying to do right now."

On Wednesday night, Sacramento police were called to a home on Price Court in north Sacramento, authorities said. Inside, officers found McCaleb shot to death.

They found Johnson badly beaten and locked in a garage.

Authorities said the suspect, later identified as Phompong, had stolen the victims' Toyota Tundra pickup and likely fled to Fresno.

Police: Weapons, ammo stolen

Sacramento police alerted officers in Fresno and said they suspected Phompong had stolen several weapons and ammunition from the victims' home.

Fresno police spotted the pickup and learned Phompong likely was in an apartment complex where a relative lived.

Police called in the SWAT team and used "flash-bang" devices and tear gas to try to get Phompong out of the apartment, Fresno police said. Officers never made contact with the suspect.

A robot sent into the apartment recorded images of a body lying on the floor.

Shortly after 11 a.m., SWAT officers found Phompong inside the apartment, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. They found a .30-30 long rifle, the same model Phompong reportedly stole from the north Sacramento victims, Fresno police spokesman Jeff Cardinale said.

Thursday evening, police were awaiting fingerprint results to positively identify the body as Phompong.

A relative of Phompong reached Thursday by phone declined to comment.

Phompong was paroled Aug. 22, 2006, after serving nearly nine years of a 13-year sentence for an assault with a deadly weapon conviction that stemmed from a 1998 knife attack. Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said Phompong initially had been charged with attempted murder in the assault. She said Phompong attacked the victim because he had testified against Phompong in a previous case.

In September 2006, Phompong had been ordered deported by a judge, but was released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody that December under parole supervision, according to officials at ICE and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Phompong was assigned to a parole agent in Modesto.

"He had no permission to be there (in Sacramento), and if he was, it was not to the knowledge of his agent of record," said Gordon Hinkle, a CDCR spokesman.

Latoya McGee, a 25-year-old resident of Price Court, said Phompong had been living in her family's detached garage for three months. They knew he had been in prison, she said, but not why.

McGee described him as a nice guy who had been looking for a job and who didn't cause trouble for the family. He was so chatty, said McGee's sister Latrina, that she sometimes avoided him.

Phompong became friendly with Johnson and McCaleb, the sisters said. He sometimes helped the couple clean house or went places with them.

Latoya McGee said her family recently let Phompong sleep in the house to escape the heat and bugs in the garage.

"Sometimes he slept on the floor next to us," she said. "We never see no signs of this, though."

Sacramento Bee researcher Sheila A. Kern contributed to this report.

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