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home : community : community Friday, May 27, 2016

2/16/2006 Email this articlePrint this article 
Two Die in Murder-Suicide on Saint Paul’s Eastside
After Years of Marital Strife, Husband Kills Wife and Himself

Sao Sue Jurewitsch

Saint Paul police were called to 1192 Burr Street on Tuesday, February 7th to investigate an apparent murder-suicide. When police arrived at about 2:30 p.m. at the house, they found the bodies of 25-year old Joane Khang and her 30-year old husband Kou Khang. A later autopsy confirmed that both had died of stab wounds. Police also found the couple’s 1 year-old son and a 4-year old niece in the home. According to relatives, the children were in the home at the time of the murder. The Khangs’ 8-year old second son was not at home at the time of the killings.

Saint Paul police had been called to the home on the previous Sunday because of a verbal confrontation between Kou and Joane Khang. Police spokesperson Peter Crum said that since the confrontation had been only verbal, no charges were filed and no on was arrested.

What police did not know at the time was that the Khangs had a long history of domestic violence. Joane and Kou married almost ten years ago, when she was only 15. According to Joanne’s mother, Ying Lo, almost from the beginning Kou Khang tried to control his wife’s movements and did not allow her to leave the house on her own. Whenever she would go somewhere, he threatened her and at times would beat her when she returned. Last November, Kou Khang had tried to return his wife to her family. According to Joanne’s stepfather, Tong Pao Hang, he refused to take his step-daughter back, because the couple had two children. He instead told them to work out their differences.

According to family members, the altercation that led to Tuesday’s killings started on Saturday, when Joane was picked up by her mother, Ying Lo, to celebrate the birth of a son to one of Joane’s sisters. Kou Khang refused to go, and he would not allow his wife to go without him. When she decided to go anyway, he threatened to kill her if she would return. That night, Joane stayed at her mother’s home. When she returned the next morning, she and Kou got into the fight that led to the first police call. After the altercation, Joane took her children back to her mother’s home in Frogtown and stayed overnight.

On Monday, Kou Khang came to his mother-in law’s house to take his children. When he assaulted his wife in her home, Ying Lo stepped in and told him to leave. According to Ying Lo, Kou Khang repeated his threats to kill his wife. He took his two children and left. Shortly after Kou left, Joane called her landlord and ask him to take her husband off of the lease. Later in the day, she went home to be with her children. She was killed sometime on Tuesday morning. None of the four other adults who live in the home were there at the time of the murder.

Joane Khang’s family has lived in the United States since 1978. They first settled in Colorado, where Joane was born on December 17, 1980. The family then moved and lived in Fresno, California for most of the 1980’s. In 1991, they moved to North Carolina, where Joane married Kou Khang. In 2001, the family moved to Minnesota. Joane and Kou Khang have lived in the home at 1192 Burr Street since 2003.

With the long history of threats and domestic violence, it seems incredible that the tragedy at 1192 Burr could not have been prevented. Unfortunately, it is not surprising to Pamela Yang, interim director of Asian Women United, a Twin Cities non-profit organization that advocates for victims of domestic violence. “In our culture, many women feel that going outside the family for help will bring shame to their family,” she explained in a phone interview. She also sees that the changing roles of men and women in America can lead to more stress on relationships. “It has a lot to do with our culture. Many of the younger women have grown up here and expect to have more control over their lives, while many husbands still feel that they should control their wife’s lives.”

Mrs. Yang is also quick to point out that her organization’s goal is to educate both men and women about their rights. “We are not judging people, we are trying to help them understand their rights. If a man comes to us with a restraining order, we will explain to him what his rights are. When women call with a problem of domestic violence, we will give her options. We never make a decision for her.”

There are still many in the Hmong community who view organizations like AWU with suspicion, but it seems it is time that the community supports their work. Domestic violence is a problem that affects all communities, including Hmong-Americans. Joane Khang and other victims of domestic violence deserve a community that comes together to offer help for those caught up in unsafe situation. That includes supporting organizations like AWU, and to speak out against violence wherever we witness it. When Kou Khang assaulted her daughter in her home, Ying Lo told him: “I did not raise my daughter to be beaten by you.” Unfortunately, by herself she could not protect her daughter’s life. It is up to our community to make sure that no mother has to stand alone against this kind of abuse ever again.

If you, or anyone you know, is the victim of domestic violence or has been threatened with it, you can find help at AWU’s 24-hour emergency help line at (612) 724-8823. The phone line is staffed with trained advocates who will treat all calls with confidentiality.

Sao Sue Jurewitsch can be reached at hmongtimes.saosue@gmail.com .

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