MILWAUKEE – Authorities found a Minnesota man's severed head in the trunk of a car and other body parts in the basement of a Milwaukee home, according to a criminal complaint charging a central Wisconsin man with first-degree intentional homicide.
A judge ordered Kou Thao, 26, held on a $1 million cash bond during an initial appearance Monday. The Wausau man is scheduled for a preliminary hearing May 1.
The investigation began April17 when police were called to a Wausau home. The suspect's brother-in-law, Yeh Lor, told officers Thao came to the house with Tong Pao Hang, a 58-year-old man from St. Paul, Minn. Hang was the boyfriend of Lor's aunt.
Lor told detectives he was smoking outside while Thao and Hang went into the basement to drink. He said he heard what sounded like a single gunshot come from the basement. When he went downstairs to investigate, he saw the victim lying on the ground in a pool of blood.
The two men wrapped the body in a tarp and loaded it into a car, Lor told investigators. Lor told authorities he helped Thao with the body because he thought Thao might have a gun.
Officers found Thao on Thursday at a Milwaukee home. When police knocked on the door of the home Thao ran out the back door but was quickly caught and arrested, the criminal complaint said.
Wausau police assisted with executing a search warrant on the car and home. They found a bucket in the trunk containing Hang's severed head, with a gunshot wound between the eyes.
Thao later told detectives he had dismembered the body and hid some of the pieces in the basement, along with a knife and the tarp, the complaint said.
Investigators showed him a picture of the basement and he pointed out cushions under which the body parts were hidden, prosecutors said. Detectives later found the body parts.
Online court records didn't list a defense attorney for Thao on Tuesday. A message left with the public defender's office wasn't immediately returned.
Thao is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, hiding a corpse and being a felon in possession of a firearm. A conviction on the homicide charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, although a judge could choose to leave open the possibility for parole.
The other two charges carry a maximum combined penalty of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. They also carry enhanced possible penalty of four additional years as a repeat offender, because Thao was previously convicted of three other charges during the past five years. Those offenses were possession of methamphetamine, battery and two separate charges of retail theft.
A message left with Marathon County prosecutors asking about a possible motive was not immediately returned.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.