A 22-year-old suspected gang member from Merced was ordered to stand trial Wednesday for separate homicides, one that occurred 2011 and another in 2012.
Lo Saeteurn is charged with killing Destry Woods on Aug. 4, 2011, and Kai Saelee on Sept. 9, 2012. Woods, 20, was shot to death in the driveway of the Sunnyside Apartments in the 900 block of D Street. Saelee, 33, was shot and killed outside his home in the area of G Street and Childs Avenue in Merced.
The Merced County District Attorney’s Office said Lo Saeteurn is charged with killing both victims, but said there are no other connections between the two incidents. Saelee was a member of a rival street gang and, prosecutors said, Lo Saeteurn may have believed Woods was also a gang rival.
Lo Saeteurn’s cousin, Sou Saeteurn, has been accused of driving the getaway vehicle after Saelee was killed. Sou Saeteurn also been charged with murder in connection with the death of Saelee.
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Sou Saeteurn testified Wednesday before Judge Ronald W. Hansen in Merced Superior Court.
Sou Saeteurn said he was waiting inside his vehicle for his cousin late on a Sunday night in 2012 when he heard about five shots ring out and saw his cousin running back to the vehicle.
Sou Saeteurn told Rob Carroll, Merced County chief deputy district attorney, he was afraid of his cousin “because he’s a gangster.” Sou Saeteurn testified he had no idea what had happened when his cousin got out of the car to speak with Saelee.
“What did I think? Someone got shot,” Sou Saeteurn testified.
Lo Saeteurn faces a potential sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted in both cases. Sou Saeteurn faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
Sou Saeteurn told the court he did not know his cousin was armed when he got out of the car to speak with Saelee and said he did not know his cousin planned any violence. He said prosecutors had not offered him any deals in exchange for his testimony, saying he expects no special consideration.
Lo Saeteurn’s attorney, Barbara O’Neill, asked Sou Saeteurn why he would testify if he hadn’t been promised a lesser potential sentence. “Because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Sou Saeteurn responded. “Why should I be blamed for something I didn’t do?”
Sou Saeteurn said he did not know the alleged murder weapon was left inside his car until the following morning. He said when he found out it was there, he tried to sell it, but could not find a buyer.
Outside the courtroom Wednesday, O’Neill appeared incredulous regarding Sou Saeteurn’s testimony. The Fresno attorney said his statements on the witness stand were confusing, inconsistent and “totally self-serving.” She indicated it was possible that Sou Saeteurn was the gunman on the night Saelee was killed.
Carroll said prosecutors remain “confident.”
“We have the right person charged in both incidents,” Carroll said in an interview. “He was consistent with his statements that he told police after the shooting.”
Merced police detectives arrested Lo Saeteurn two days after Saelee was killed. A month later, prosecutors named him as the prime suspect in the death of Woods.
Officials have said Woods was wearing blue clothes when the shooting happened, which may have been the motive for the killing.
Lo Saeteurn was ordered to return to court Sept. 24 for arraignment. He remains in custody without bail at the Merced County jail.