Three dimes left in a Sonoma County beach parking lot next to the bullet-ridden body of a Santa Rosa man may have been a calling card from the killers who believed the man's brother was a snitch.
That's what a prosecutor argued Friday near the end of a more than month-long trial of four Asian Boyz gang members charged with kidnapping and killing Vutha Au, 24, at Blind Beach in 2008.
Au's brother, Terry Au, 27, was suspected of "dropping a dime" three times on gang members, ending with his preliminary hearing testimony against men accused of torturing him, prosecutor Traci Carrillo told jurors.
As payback for talking to authorities, Preston Khaoone, 26, Quentin Russell, 28, and brothers Sarith Prak, 25, and David Prak, 23, all of Santa Rosa, abducted Vutha Au and drove him to the deserted beach parking lot where he was shot nine times, Carrillo said.
The prosecutor suggested the defendants left the dimes as a symbolic gesture to anyone who might consider telling on gang members.
"Terry Au snitched," Carrillo said. "It was the ultimate disrespect. There had to be consequences."
She asked the first of two juries seated in the circumstantial evidence case to return guilty verdicts against Russell and the Praks. A second panel weighing evidence against Khaoone will hear closing arguments next week. Khaoone was not in court Friday.
All four face life in prison without parole if convicted of murder with special circumstances, kidnapping and gang participation. The District Attorney's Office decided not to seek the death penalty.
In addition to not-guilty verdicts, jurors have the option of reaching a verdict on a lesser charge of second-degree murder.
By late Friday afternoon, only Russell's lawyer had a chance to make a final argument. Marty Woods rejected any notion that his client was the shooter, pointing instead to Khaoone, whose brothers were convicted of torturing Terry Au in the underlying case.
"The Khaoone family is a very dangerous family," Woods told jurors. "They have proved it time and again. And Preston Khaoone is the one who killed Vutha Au in that parking lot."
Final arguments will conclude Monday and the jury will begin its deliberations.
Prosecutors agreed Preston Khaoone was the ringleader but said they couldn't be sure who shot Au. Russell was suspected because of a T-shirt and gloves found a few miles from the scene.
Regardless, all four could be found guilty of first-degree murder, Carrillo said.
Her case rests mostly on a flurry of phone calls and text messages between the four men and two co-defendants around the time of the killing.
In one text message, co-defendant Boonlak Chanpheng appears to tell another co-defendant, Tyrone Tay, to bring Au to a Mendocino Avenue pool hall where he is placed in another car and driven to Blind Beach.
One of the messages from Chanpheng says, "We &‘bout to f--- him up," Carrillo said.
"The phone records show you the truth and what was going on that night," Carrillo said. "They don't lie."
About an hour later, Vutha Au's body was found by a park ranger lying face-down on the asphalt in a pool of blood. He had been shot four times in the head and five times in the back, buttocks and legs in what Carrillo described as an "execution."