Zong Vang

 

Green Bay, Wisconsin saw one of the most brutal examples of a deliberate murder by a teen killer in a case tinged with hate crime and racially charged complexities. 

Young Zong Vang was only 13, and much smaller than his attacker who chased him up a mountain, only to push him off a mountain while he was begging for his life.

Offender Omer Ninham is appealing to the state Supreme Court to determine if his life sentence for pushing Zong Vang off a Green Bay parking ramp in 1998 is constitutional. Ninham was 14-years-old when the crime was committed. When he was 16, Ninham was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for chasing Vang, 13, to the top of the St. Vincent Hospital parking ramp and pushing him to his death.

No one should downplay the horrific nature of the Ninham’s crime.

On Sept. 23, 1998, 13-year-old Zong Vang was running an errand for his family. Ninham and 13-year-old Richard Crapeau, both of Green Bay, and three other juveniles were near the St. Vincent Hospital parking ramp when they spotted Vang, who they did not know, riding his bike.

“Let’s mess with this kid,” Crapeau said, according to news accounts of the case.

Crapeau pulled Vang from his bike and Ninham punched him. Vang fled to the top floor of the parking ramp, where Crapeau and Ninham caught up with him and punched him in the face and body. Ninham grabbed the boy’s wrists and Crapeau held his ankles and they swung Vang over the side of the ramp wall. Vang pleaded for his life as the others egged Crapeau and Ninham on, urging them to let go. They did, letting the screaming boy plummet to his death.

Ninham and Crapeau were later convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and physical abuse of a child. Crapeau was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole until he has served 50 years, and Ninham was sentenced to life with no chance of parole, ever.

Ninham’s Attorney, Bryan Stevenson calls the crime “terrible,” and he says he understands how people might want to throw away the key. “You could certainly see how a crime like this is provocative and raging and painful,” he says.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who has assigned an attorney from his department to argue against giving Ninham a chance at parole, would not comment on the Supreme Court’s acceptance of the case. But after the appeals court decision last year he issued a statement saying, “For some juvenile offenders, a life sentence without parole is fair and just punishment. Ninham was properly punished for a horrible crime.”

The victims family has declined to talk to the media during the case appeals. But the Hmong community, which has seen too much violence against it, has been very supportive because of the horrible nature of this crime.