A judge on Monday sentenced an Atwater man to 132 years to life in prison for firing an automatic rifle at close range, killing his girlfriend and his friend. Another man was seriously wounded in the west Modesto shooting but survived and testified against the defendant.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen also sentenced Tou Vang Xiong to an additional seven years in prison for other crimes in connection with the shooting, but the defendant had already served that time in jail.
Xiong was taken into custody shortly after the shooting occurred about 5:20 a.m. on July 20, 2009, in the 1700 block of Radley Place, a few blocks southeast of Paradise Road in west Modesto. Authorities said Xiong opened fire inside a detached room where Nhia Yang lived. His family lived in the main house in front.
The defendant’s girlfriend, Gao Sheng Her, also was in what the prosecutor called “the death room.” Authorities said Yang and Her died quickly after being fired upon in the small, cramped room.
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Ruben Villalobos, Xiong’s defense attorney, argued that the defendant was under the influence of methamphetamine and was experiencing hallucinations when he fired the rifle. He sought a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
In February, a jury found Xiong guilty of two counts of murder and attempted murder for shooting Lee Pao Yang, who ran from the room after he was shot in both arms and his chin. Xiong also was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for holding Nhia Yang’s sister at gunpoint as he tried to escape.
A forensic psychologist testified in the trial that Xiong was experiencing a “meth-induced psychosis” when he fired the rifle. The defendant and the gunshot victims used a lot of meth for several hours before the shooting. After the shooting, Xiong spoke of killing two tigers and that one of them got away.
Deputy District Attorney John Baker argued that the amount of meth in the defendant’s body was nowhere near the toxic level, and that Xiong was not hallucinating. The prosecutor told the jury that Xiong was “cold, calculating and cruel.”
Lee Pao Yang testified that Xiong appeared “very angry” after a lengthy argument with his girlfriend. He said the couple fought because Xiong wanted to have sex and she didn’t. Yang found the couple arguing in the room shortly before Xiong fired the rifle at his girlfriend, then his two friends.