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Hearing starts in witness-protection slaying

Investigators found 18 shell casings surrounding a gunshot victim found near Jenner in 2008, yet preliminary tests show none of the four men arrested minutes after the killing had gunshot residue on his hands, according to testimony in Sonoma County court Monday.

The revelations came in the first day of a preliminary hearing for six men accused of killing a man who was in the witness relocation program to prevent his testimony in another case.

Quentin Russell, 25, Preston Khaoone, 23, Tyrone Tay, 27, Boonlack Chanpheng, 27, and brothers David, 20, and Sarith Prak, 22, are charged with murder in the shooting death of Vutha Au, 24, in March 2008 in a Blind Beach parking lot near Jenner.

Investigators say Au was killed so he couldn?t testify on behalf of his brother, 22-year-old Terry Au, who was allegedly kidnapped and beaten by a group of drug-dealing gangsters that included two of Khaoone?s brothers.

The men face charges that could trigger a death sentence, but prosecutors haven?t said whether they will seek the death penalty.

Detectives say neither Tay nor Chanpheng were present during the slaying. They said Tay was with the victim before the other four men drove him to the beach parking lot and that Chanpheng helped plan the attack.

Investigators said one of the other four shot Au nine times, killing him at the scene.

A state parks ranger en route to an unrelated disturbance call spotted Au?s body and saw a car driving out of the beach parking lot about 1 a.m. He broadcast the car description and Sonoma County sheriff?s deputies stopped the eastbound car a few minutes later on Highway 116 near Monte Rio.

A 9mm pistol believed to be used in the shooting was found two months later in the Russian River near the Highway 1 bridge.

In court Monday, Sgt. Darin Dougherty said he documented 18 9mm shell casings near Au, circling his body in two large groupings.


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