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Crime & Courts

Teen suspects in market killings plead not guilty

Three teen gang members accused in the shooting deaths of a respected Laotian immigrant couple and their daughter have pleaded not guilty to charges that include murder, robbery and burglary.

Prosecutors allege that Oloth "Dicky" Phommahaxay, 18, Sophon Theoun Ting, 16, and Chris Douangkham, 15, entered the family's Asian-goods market in Modesto to rob the business, according to a criminal complaint.

The two juveniles are being charged as adults. They entered their pleas on Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

According to court documents, the shootings stemmed from a burglary of the V&V Oriental Market on Tuesday. Store owners Vanh Thammavongsa and his wife, Phouvieng, were killed.

Their 28-year-old developmentally disabled daughter, Nancy, was pronounced brain dead earlier this week and was taken off life support late Thursday, Modesto Police Sgt. Rick Armendariz said.

The criminal complaint accused the defendants of "lying in wait" to kill the family, but did not elaborate.

Police are investigating the motive and why the Thammavongsa family was targeted, Armendariz said.

"We're still trying to piece together why something so horrific would happen in broad daylight, on a busy afternoon, with a lot of pedestrians and children around," he said.

Family members and friends said the couple, who had fled war-torn Laos 30 years ago, were known for their strong work ethic and had never been the victims of a serious crime before.

"They're a loving family," their niece Lisa Sanachay told the Modesto Bee. "They were just trying to make a living."

The three accused teens are documented gang members, Armendariz said. A "gang enhancement" is part of the criminal charges, which could result in longer sentences, he said.

Phommahaxay is being held without bail at the Stanislaus County Jail, and bail was set at $10 million each for Ting and Douangkham.

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