The lunar new year has only just begun, but for the Sacramento Mien community, the traditional festivities have already been overshadowed by a series of violent crimes.
"There is one thing after another. I don't know what's going on, we're a community in crisis," said Chiem-Seng Yaangh, who is chairman of a task force against Hmong, Mien and Lao gang violence.
The list of recent victims includes Meuy Chang Saechao, 75, and her boyfriend, Saeng Kuang Saetern, 52, who were discovered Monday morning in their home, killed by blunt force trauma to their heads.
Yaangh said community leaders also bemoaned the stabbing death Monday evening of a Mien teen, 19-year-old Chaita Saechao.
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And just days earlier, a 14-year-old boy was among five Mien people arrested in a suspected murder-for-hire of a pregnant Mien woman.
Sacramento sheriff's officials said there were no signs of struggle at the Roosevelt Avenue home of Saechao and her boyfriend, Saetern. They had not been seen since Feb. 8, sheriff's spokesman R.L. Davis said, before they were discovered about 10 a.m. Monday.
Jimmy Phanh, Saechao's son-in-law and a former vice president of the United Iu Mien Community Inc., said the couple would not have let a stranger into their home.
"It has to be someone who came there before," Phanh said. "That's why they opened the door."
The couple were discovered by sheriff's officials after family members called them repeatedly and found their car at home and door locked, Phanh said.
The couple were kind and helped others in the community, said Phanh.
They came to the United States in the mid-'80s and picked strawberries for a few years, but recently lived on Supplemental Security Income. Saetern suffered from cancer for about four years, Phanh said.
In the Monday stabbing case, sheriff's officials arrested three North Highlands teens, one who is 17 years old and two who are 16, in connection with the slaying at Bellinger Court and Polk Street in North Highlands.
Just a week before, the community was shocked when five Mien suspects were arrested in what authorities call a murder-for-hire plot to kill 29-year-old Si Choy Saeturn, who was about four months pregnant.
The suspects in the Dec. 29 slaying include Si Choy Saeturn's husband, Nai Saechao, 25, who said in a jailhouse interview that he had impregnated another woman, but did not kill his wife.
Yaangh said violence has been mounting in Southeast Asian communities over the past five years. He said in that time, 22 deaths have been tied to gang violence among Hmong, Mien and Lao people.
In the wake of the drive-by slaying of 13-year-old Lenny Visamoune on Thanksgiving, Yaangh said he and others launched a task force to address the violence.
"We are using the gang situation as the catch, but we're concerned about all the trauma and all the death that has taken place," he said.
The group is holding its first meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. at 6000 Lemon Hill Ave.
Although Yaangh said the recent spate of deaths have been surprising, they may be an aftershock of the massive resettlement the community experienced.
In the early 1980s, the U.S. government granted refugee status to thousands of Mien people, members of mountain tribes that helped the CIA during the Vietnam War.
Yaangh said the Mien people were adept at farming and fishing, which left a long climb to fitting in to American society.
"After 25 years, we're still very much struggling," Yaangh said. "Socially, we have more problems now than did before."