Motion detectors sounded the alarm at 2 o'clock in the morning, and Chinda Nomesiri knew exactly what was happening, police said thieves jumping the fence into his family's Del Paso Heights backyard once again to steal pot plants.
He ran outside to scare them off, but when he discovered that one of the motion sensors was missing, he told his mother they'd probably be back, maybe as soon as that night, police said.
About 90 minutes later, barking dogs woke up his mom, Vanna Nomesiri. She went outside with a .22 rifle and saw three intruders scrambling for the fence. The fourth, she shot in the neck, police said. Then her son grabbed a shovel. Police said he smashed the man 10 to 20 times with it, cracking the fellow's skull.
Vue Cheng, 29, died as a result of the Sept. 22 rifle shot. On Friday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Raoul M. Thorbourne ordered Chinda Nomesiri, 32, and Vanna Nomesiri, 51, to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter.
Outside court, the dead man's brother told Deputy District Attorney Charles Gonzalez the woman's story didn't make sense to him. She said she aimed at the sky. But the bullet went straight into Cheng's neck.
"The charge, in a way, it's probably because the dead can't wake up and fight his own case," Pia Cheng said of the involuntary manslaughter accusation. "I believe God is the only person who can take whoever's life. Those two persons, that night, they thought they was God."
Gonzalez said he couldn't comment because the case is still pending.
Neither defense attorney W. Bradley Holmes for Vanna Nomesiri and Terry Hunt for Chinda Nomesiri argued Friday for self-defense. Holmes said in court he expects to discuss a resolution with the District Attorney's Office.
Thorbourne scheduled the next court date for June 28.
At Friday's hearing, Sacramento Police Officer Dan Burke testified Vanna Nomesiri told him in an interview that after dogs woke her up, she picked up the rifle, went to the sliding glass door and saw dark-clothed figures stealing the marijuana plants.
"Stop don't take that," Vanna Nomesiri, who required a Lao interpreter in court, told the thieves, in English, according to Burke. "I need that. I want that. Stop or I'll shoot. I have a gun. It's a real gun."
After three intruders scampered over the fence, Nomesiri found herself in a faceoff with Vue Cheng, Burke testified that she told him. She said she pointed her gun "up, as if she was shooting into the sky," Burke said. "She said she wasn't trying to kill."
Burke said Nomesiri "kind of wavered" about whether Cheng was coming toward her when she shot him. "In the end, she settled on the person facing her and walking toward her," the officer testified.
Detective Bryce Heinlein said the family appeared to be growing "quite a bit" of marijuana. The detective said they had strung the plants on multiple lines inside their garage, apparently for drying purposes. Nomesiri's lawyer suggested in his questioning that the family had a medical marijuana certificate.
Heinlein said when officers found Cheng's body, he had one plant underneath him and a foot-long machete close at hand.
In his interview with the son, Heinlein testified, Chinda Nomesiri said the family had been subjected to "past incidents" of thievery. Chinda Nomesiri allegedly told Heinlein that by the time he responded to the 3:30 a.m. raid, his mother had already shot Vue Cheng and was standing at the sliding glass door with the rifle.
Heinlein said Chinda Nomesiri armed himself with a shovel, approached Cheng and "began to strike him approximately 10 to 20 times."
Before the shovel assault, Chinda Nomesiri said, Cheng mentioned he'd already been shot, according to Heinlein. Meanwhile, after Chinda Nomesiri went back into the house to check on his mother, another pot raider slipped back over the fence to assist Cheng, Heinlein's testified. Chinda Nomesiri got his shovel again and went after the second man, hitting him multiple times, Heinlein testified the defendant told him.
"He was angry," Heinlein said of Chinda Nomesiri. During the detective's questioning, Heinlein said Chinda Nomesiri asked, "Did we do something wrong?"
As Chinda Nomesiri thought about it some more, Heinlein testified, "He felt he went a little overboard hitting the subject with the shovel."