After agreeing to testify against his two co-defendants in an upcoming murder trial, Hoomphanh Vanvilay was sentenced to probation Friday, and was to be released from jail.
Vanvilay, 46, has spent the past 744 days in jail for restraining 25-year-old Youthaloth Oudanonh while his friend fatally stabbed the man in the neck at a Laotian community dance in Salt Lake City in 1991.
Vanvilay and his co-defendants — brothers Viengkeo and Vienphet Sundara — fled in a vehicle following the stabbing. A security guard at the dance called the vehicle’s description into police.
A short time later an officer stopped the vehicle at the 900 South onramp to Interstate 15. Vienphet Sundara had blood on his hands, face and clothing and Vanvilay had blood on his clothing, according to charges.
A knife with blood on it was found inside the car. Viengkeo Sundara had what appeared to be blood on his shoes, according to charges.
The men were arrested but charges were dropped after police failed to find someone at the dance willing to testify, despite eyewitnesses.
Charges were filed in 3rd District Court in January 2016 after DNA testing not available at the time of the slaying confirmed Oudanonh’s blood was on the knife found in the getaway car.
All three men were charged with first-degree felony murder.
But in May 2016, Vanvilay flipped on his friends and pleaded guilty to a lesser count of second-degree felony manslaughter and agreed to testify against the Sundara brothers.
According to the charges, the 1991 altercation began when Oudanonh punched Viengkeo Sundara at the dance.
When the Sundara brothers and Vanvilay confronted Oudanonh outside of the community center, Vanvilay claims Viengkeo Sundara said, “Grab him,” as Viengkeo Sundara grabbed one of the victim’s arms and Vanvilay grabbed the other arm, charges state. Vienphet Sundara then pulled out a knife and stabbed Oudanonh in the neck.
“He thought they were committing an assault, but it ended up being an assault that killed someone,” Steven Shapiro, Vanvilay’s attorney, said during the sentencing.
The hearing was brief. There were no statements from the victim’s family presented in court. Prosecutor Matthew Janzen said Oudanonh has a brother still living in Utah who has been in contact with prosecutors regarding the case.
Vanvilay, of Roosevelt, declined to speak.
Judge Todd Shaughnessy sentenced him to a one-to-15-year prison term, which was suspended.
The judge gave Vanvilay credit for the two years and 14 days he had spent in jail on the case and ordered his release from jail.
As part of a three-year probation, Vanvilay is required to “truthfully” testify against the Sundara brothers at their trial in May. He previously testified against them during preliminary hearings.