SALT LAKE CITY — A man charged this year in a 1991 stabbing death was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for murder.
Vienphet Sundara, 47, was charged in January with the death of Youthaloth Oudanonh, who was stabbed at a dance in Salt Lake City 25 years ago. On Tuesday, 3rd District Judge Katie Bernards-Goodman ordered Sundara to stand trial in the case.
Arraignment has been set for June 3 before Judge Todd Shaughnessy.
On May 19, 1991, Oudanonh, 26, was stabbed in the back, shoulder and neck while attending the dance at 120 W. 1300 South, according to police. An officer working security spotted the man "stumble between two cars, bleeding heavily," according to charging documents.
At the conclusion of a two-day preliminary hearing Tuesday, deputy chief medical examiner Edward Leis testified that, of the three, it was a wound to the back of Oudanonh's neck that proved fatal.
"Without immediate medical attention, it's actually the only fatal injury of the three stab wounds," Leis said, noting that it would have taken a few minutes for Oudanonh to bleed out.
After the stabbing, Salt Lake police stopped a fleeing vehicle at the 900 South on-ramp to I-15. Hoomphanh Vanvilay, Sundara and a third man were all in the vehicle, and all were confirmed to be at the dance, according to charges. Sundara "had blood on his hands, face and clothing" and a bloody knife was found in the vehicle, the charges state.
Vanvilay also had blood on his clothing, according to the charges.
All three were booked into jail but were later released because of lack of evidence.
James Alcock, who was an investigator with Salt Lake police in 1991, testified of his interview with Sundara, who had identified himself as "Steve" on the night he was arrested.
Alcock recalled that Sundara was calm and polite as they talked, despite a language barrier between the two. Sundara said he had gone to the dance with friends but decided to leave when the group grew tired and bored.
"There were no problems, he just wanted to leave," Alcock recalled Sundara saying. "It was just a dance that they went to and decided after three or four beers to leave."
Asked about what appeared to be a spot of blood on his nose, Alcock said Sundara replied he must have scratched a pimple and caused it to bleed. As for other spots that appeared to be blood on his hands, Sundara answered, "What blood?" the investigator testified.
Salt Lake police detective Hilary Gordon testified she took on the case when a grant was awarded to the department to look into old cases. After locating Sundara recently in Oklahoma City, Gordon said he was interviewed again, saying initially that no fight had occurred at the dance 25 years ago.
Gordon testified that when she pressed Sundara saying blood found on the clothing he was wearing that night was found to be the same type as the victim's, the detective said Sundara changed his story. Sundara claimed a kind of "rumble" or "gang fight" broke out, and he may have been spattered with blood as he tried to get away.
Sundara first told Gordon that the bloody knife in his car may have been left there from a fishing trip, the detective testified. He went on to revise that statement, Gordon said, claiming someone at the dance must have thrown the knife into his car before he left.
Defense attorney Neal Hamilton pressed Leis, Alcock and Gordon about the condition or storage of the evidence over time, such as that of the bloody knife, which was collected in a plastic bag. Today it would be collected in a box or paper bag to prevent condensation that could compromise evidence, Leis acknowledged.
Patricia Ethington, a forensic DNA analyst at Sorenson Forensics, testified Tuesday that the blood on the men's clothing was found to match the blood type of the victim.
Another defendant in the case, 44-year-old Vanvilay, pleaded guilty this month to a reduced charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, as part of a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for his plea, Vanvilay agreed to testify as Sundara's case goes to trial.
If Vanvilay follows through with the agreement, prosecutors will recommend jail time rather than prison for Vanvilay, according to court documents. Sentencing for Vanvilay is set for July 29.