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Published: Thursday, 5/29/2003

Laos native gets prison for death at reception

Before being sentenced in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for the murder of Aaron Nolath, Phonsavan Phutseevong said again that he shot his friend in self-defense.

Phutseevong yesterday received a mandatory sentence of life in prison from Judge Charles Doneghy for the Nov. 23 shooting death of Mr. Nolath, 23, of 141 Steel St. He will be eligible for parole in 23 years.

A native of Laos, Phutseevong was at a wedding reception at the VFW Post 3012, 1950 Eber Rd. in Spencer Township, when he walked up to the victim and shot him once in the head. He died three days later.

A jury found Phutseevong, 24, of 2916 B St. guilty of aggravated murder and a specification that he used a gun in the shooting. He received three years for the specification, which must be served prior to the sentence of 20 years to life for the murder.

Again, as he did when he took the witness stand, Phutseevong said he shot Mr. Nolath because he believed he or his friends were going to shoot him. “I was provoked by him,'' the defendant said.

In his statement, Phutseevong also apologized to the victim's family, and told them that he was sorry for their loss.

Linda Ruiz, who was engaged to be married to Mr. Nolath - they had gotten a marriage license eight days before the murder - fought to hold back tears as she told the judge about her fiancee's close relationships with his mother, brother, and sister. Ms. Ruiz was seated next to the victim when he was shot in the back of the head at the wedding reception.

“None of us will forget how Aaron touched our lives. Aaron Nolath is and will be the love of my life. We planned to be husband and wife. We were committed to loving and growing old for a very long time,” Ms. Ruiz said.

During the trial, Phutseevong testified that he was confronted by two men and the victim in the restroom before the shooting, and that one of the men showed him a gun, threatening to shoot him. He said he believed the gun was later passed to the victim at the reception.

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