Man Gets Life in Prison for  Ax Murder of Mother, Child

The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court handed down a sentence of life in prison for a man who last year used an ax to kill a mother and her 13-year-old daughter while they were sleeping after the woman accused him of stealing a chicken, an official said on Thursday.

Luy Sopheak, 26, attacked Oum Phana, 31, and her six children, aged from 1 to 13, with an ax on December 29, killing the mother and her eldest child, Kong Phannarin. He fled after the 15-minute attack and was arrested on January 7 in Kandal province.

The court found him guilty of premeditated murder on Wednesday and sent him to the provincial prison, said Huot Vichet, spokesman for the provincial court’s prosecutors.

“After the hearing, the presiding judge decided to sentence the defendant, Luy Sopheak, to life in prison, and ordered him to compensate the victims with 60 million riel [about $15,000],” Mr. Vichet said. He declined further comment on the case.

The murder case made headlines in January because of its brutality and seemingly random nature, as well as the fact that Oum Phana was apparently denied medical care at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital before her death, with doctors allegedly asking her husband for $250 before they would agree to perform a brain scan.

On Thursday, Kong Phearum, the husband of Oum Phana, said the killer tried during his trial to have his charges reduced by arguing that the murder was a robbery gone wrong.

“When I joined the hearing, the suspect tried to say he was stealing a necklace, in order to make it a minor case,” Mr. Phearum said. “There was no way it was a robbery. He attacked many people and kids.”

Mr. Phearum, whose remaining children have recovered from the assault, said he was satisfied with the ruling, even though he could not forgive the attacker.

“Life in prison is enough. But if our country had capital punishment, I’d do it by hand,” he said.

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