Life term for gunman in St. Paul driving dispute

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 17, 2014 - 8:21 PM

Judge calls Aloeng Vang’s actions “senseless”; he will have no chance for parole. Victim was ambushed.

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Jeffrey T. Elling, right, and his daughter, Hannah Mayre Elling. Jeffrey Elling was murdered last September by Aloeng K. Vang.

A St. Paul man was convicted of first-degree murder and second-degree intentional murder Tuesday for fatally shooting Jeffrey T. Elling last September after Elling confronted him about his aggressive driving.

Aloeng K. Vang, 19, chose to be tried without a jury, and was convicted by Ramsey County District Judge Diane Alshouse. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

“This was a senseless killing,” Alshouse said before handing down her verdicts and sentence.

Assistant Ramsey County Attorneys Juan Hoyos and Adam Petras said at trial that Vang was angry about an encounter with Elling, went to retrieve a gun and rang Elling’s doorbell at 3 a.m. on Sept. 1. Vang hid behind a tree, and fired at Elling twice when he answered his door in the 1400 block of York Avenue, the prosecutors said.

The two had argued a short time earlier when Vang, on his way to a cousin’s home on the same block, turned onto Elling’s street at a high rate of speed. Vang nearly struck Elling and his girlfriend, prompting the confrontation. Elling pushed Vang to the ground.

Vang, who appeared to be intoxicated, felt disrespected and left to rectify the situation despite his relatives’ attempts to calm him down, prosecutors said.

Vang’s attorney, Evan Tsai, argued at trial that Elling “bullied” Vang. Vang didn’t want to be “weak,” and decided to go to Elling’s house to speak about the incident and to apologize. Vang brought the gun to boost his confidence, not to harm Elling, Tsai argued.

Tsai told the judge at trial that Vang was guilty of second-degree unintentional murder.

Alshouse said Tuesday that the facts did not support Tsai’s theory.

Hoyos read a victim impact statement from Elling’s girlfriend, Debra Heintz, before Vang was sentenced.

“That morning when Jeff died, part of me died,” her statement read. “Jeff would call me every day to see how I was doing and say, ‘I love you.’ ”

Heintz said that the trauma of Elling’s murder caused her to lose multiple jobs and the home she shared with him.

“I ask myself, ‘Why did this happen?’ ” her statement said. “It was so senseless.”

Hoyos also read a statement from Elling’s daughter, Hannah, who dropped out of her third year of college after her father was murdered.

“I miss him so much I cannot begin to explain,” her statement said.

Hannah Elling recounted her father’s dedication to attending her soccer and volleyball games and 12 years of piano recitals.

She said her father met with her every other week for dinner or a movie in Hudson, Wis., while she was attending college in nearby Menomonie, Wis.

“I miss my dad,” her statement said several times.

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  • Aloeng K. Vang, 19, was convicted in the fatal shooting of Jeffrey T. Elling.

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