Dao Xiong trial: Jury sees defendant's statements to police

"I'm scared," is what then-19-year-old Dao Xiong told investigators after he was arrested on suspicion of killing 33-year-old Youa Lor in a rural area of Lake Elmo on Sept. 9, 2010.

Xiong also asked investigators if Lor was still alive after he was shot. "He didn't make it," one, a detective with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, replied.

A video of Xiong's interview was aired during what was likely the prosecution's last day of testimony on Tuesday in Washington County District Court. Xiong, now 20, of Oakdale, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder for Lor's death, as well as a lesser included charge of second-degree murder.

Xiong was not visible on screen in the video shown to the jury Tuesday. After hearing Lor had died as a result of the shooting, the audio and investigators' reactions indicate Xiong -- who has cried in the courtroom -- became upset.

"You can work through this, you can," the detective told Xiong.

The detective and Agent Scott Mueller with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension questioned Xiong about the days leading up to Lor's shooting and about a vehicle the victim was selling.

"You need to be 100 percent honest with me," Mueller told Xiong.

Intent or accident?
According to testimony at the first trial hearing Aug. 5, Xiong plotted to steal the car, planning a test drive with Lor on Sept. 9, 2010.

With Xiong at the wheel, they drove to 55th Street North in Lake Elmo near the Green Acres Recreation area, located off Demontreville Trail.

During the interview with agent Mueller, Xiong said he brought his parents' gun, a .40 caliber handgun, to scare Lor. And he drove to the area off Demontreville Trail so the victim, who recently moved to Minnesota from Pennsylvania, would be disoriented.

Last Friday Xiong's attorney F. Clayton Tyler, told the jury the gun Xiong was carrying accidentally went off because it slipped in his hand.

Prosecutor John Fristik, of the Washington County Attorney's Office, argued both the vehicle theft and Lor's murder were part of Xiong's plan after he saw the Craigslist ad for Lor's Nissan 350Z.

Agent Mueller testified in court Tuesday and read text messages from Dao Xiong to Keng Koua Thao, a friend who helped him remove parts from Lor's vehicle after Xiong drove it to his home in Oakdale.

One message from Xiong to Thao read, "You want to kill a guy with me?"

'Worth it'?
Thao, 20 of Maplewood, and Xiong also exchanged messages about parts installed on Lor's Nissan and how they would be removed.

"Keng's my go-to guy," Xiong told Mueller during the recorded interview. Xiong said he had Keng look at the car to see "if it was worth it."

Both Keng and Xiong visited the St. Paul home where Lor was storing his Nissan before the test drive Sept. 9, 2010.

Keng Koua Thao was not with Xiong when Lor was shot. He waited at Xiong's home in Oakdale where at the time Xiong lived with his parents and brothers and sisters.

Xiong said in the recorded interview with Mueller that he told his brother as well as Thao "a different story" about what happened to Lor because he didn't want them to know he shot him.

Xiong's brother came home while Thao was helping him remove parts from the car, and Thao's friend, named Cheenou, also helped them remove parts, according to Xiong.

During the interview, Xiong also told investigators where he threw his cell phone and the victim's, as well as the keys to the Nissan after he and Thao left it in Sunfish Lake Park.

Least-traveled route
Mueller testified Tuesday that he had Xiong drive with him after his arrest to show the route he drove with Lor's Nissan and to attempt to find the phones and keys.

Xiong did not take the highway to return to his home on 35th Street North in Oakdale, rather stayed on the back roads, Mueller said.

"He told us the reason he took that route (was) he wanted to get out of that area quickly, but also wanted to drive on roads that weren't well traveled," Mueller said.

Attempts to find the Lor's and Xiong's cell phones were not successful, Mueller said, but investigators were able to retrieve the text messages from Keng Koua Thao's phone.

Fristik's final two witnesses Tuesday were Kurt Moline, a forensic scientist with the BCA who examined the gun used in Lor's shooting and Dr. Victor Froloff from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office.

Moline said the bullet fragments found in Lor's body matched bullets fired by the handgun. He also testified that the safety mechanism on the gun prevents it from being fired unless the trigger is pulled. He said he tested the gun to determine if it would fire if struck by an object, in this case a rubber mallet.

"I was not able to get the firearm to discharge," Moline said.

After analyzing the victim's clothing and the hole made by the bullet, Moline said the gun did not have direct contact with Lor's body. He wasn't able to determine the specific distance the shooter was from Lor, Moline said.

Lor was shot once in the abdomen and Froloff testified that he bled to death within minutes. Several passersby found Lor in the ditch off of 55th Street North and were unable to revive him. Lor was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital.

After Froloff's testimony, Fristik said it was unlikely that he would have additional witnesses Wednesday morning and would conclude his case at that time.

Tyler's defense witnesses will testify during the remainder of the morning Wednesday, possibly into the afternoon. Then the attorneys and 10th District Judge Ellen Maas will review jury instructions the remainder of the day. Closing arguments are expected to be Thursday morning.

Katy Zillmer can be reached at kzillmer@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7822.

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