RE Murder of Cha Vang. WI DOJ Press Release

From the Wisconsin Department of Justice...


January 16, 2007

MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that Marinette
County District Attorney Brent DeBord filed a criminal complaint today
in the matter of the death of Cha Vang. The complaint charges James
Allen Nichols, age 28, of Peshtigo, with three counts: 1st degree
intentional homicide; felon in possession of a firearm; and concealing
a corpse. As to all three counts, the state is alleging that Nichols
is a repeat offender based on prior burglary convictions from 1997. If
convicted, the maximum penalty for all of the charges is life in prison
plus 39 years. Nichols has been in custody since January 5, 2007, for
violating the terms of his parole.

Assistant Attorneys General from the Wisconsin Department of Justice
(DOJ) will be assisting the Marinette County Office of the District
Attorney in prosecuting the charges filed today. Nichols's initial
appearance is scheduled today at 4 p.m. before Judge Miron.

The complaint alleges that Vang encountered Nichols while they were
both hunting on January 5, 2007, in the Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife area.
Vang's hunting companions reported that Vang failed to meet them as
agreed at 4 p.m., after which they reported him missing. Vang's body
was discovered by law enforcement authorities on the morning of January
6, 2007, lying in a small depression and partially covered with leaves
and other debris. A log was lying across his body.

Shortly before 7 p.m. on January 5, 2007, Nichols arrived at the Bay
Area Medical Center in Marinette and reported that he had been shot by
an unknown person while hunting in an area 35 miles away from the
Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife area. Nichols had a .22 caliber bullet lodged
in his right hand and an injury to his left hand. Nichols denied
having possessed a firearm while hunting, stating that he had been
using a pellet gun which he had brought with him to the hospital.

The Marinette County Sheriff's Department was notified and responded
to the hospital. Prior to that time, Marinette County law enforcement
dispatch had not received any calls from Nichols reporting a shooting
or any request for assistance. Nichols provided this same version to a
responding sheriff's deputy and also stated that after being shot he
drove home and called his girlfriend, who then drove him to the

After the investigating deputy expressed doubt about his statements,
Nichols stated he wanted to talk hypothetically and asked about
self-defense. Nichols changed his story and acknowledged he was
hunting in the Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife Area. Nichols claimed that
while he was hunting squirrels he looked up to see Vang and told him to
leave the area because he was interfering with Nichols's hunting, and
that Vang said something he couldn't understand and then shot him in
the hand with a .22 caliber rifle. Nichols stated that he laughed
after being shot and then ran when he was shot again in his other hand.
Nichols stated that he then charged Vang and they fought and Nichols
killed him.

Nichols was later interviewed by another officer and stated that he was
hunting with a shotgun. After killing a squirrel, Nichols stated he
saw Vang looking at him from 50 feet away and he told Vang to leave.
Nichols stated that Vang responded by stating, "I'm going to kill
you" and shot him in the right hand. Nichols stated that he ran
another 40 feet and fired a "wild" shot back at Vang but didn't
know if he hit him. Vang then allegedly fired a second shot at him and
hit him in the left hand. Nichols stated that he then observed Vang
doing something with his weapon and he then ran at Vang from 90 feet
away, wrestled the gun away and stabbed Vang twice in the neck.
Nichols stated that he then covered up Vang's body and put Vang's
gun under a tree.

Vang's hunting companions reported that Vang did not speak English.

Nichols's girlfriend initially advised investigators that Nichols had
told her he had been shot while hunting and did not know who shot him.
She later advised investigators that Nichols claimed he was shot by a
person with whom he got into a fight, and that Nichols stabbed and
killed that person. Investigators were also informed that after the
incident occurred, Nichols and his girlfriend drove to Menominee,
Michigan, where Nichols hid a shotgun and ammunition in a storage
locker and then took a pellet gun from the locker and placed it in the
girlfriend's car. Prior to arriving at the hospital, Nichols's
girlfriend removed a knife from Nichols's clothing and put it in the
console of her car.

Law enforcement officers conducted a search of the storage locker and
discovered a shotgun hidden behind a piece of furniture, and
ammunition. A knife was recovered from the girlfriend's car.

An autopsy of Vang revealed that Vang had been shot once with a
shotgun, wounding him in his right arm, neck, head and torso. The
autopsy also indicated that Vang had been stabbed six times; five to
the front of the neck and once to his left cheek. Vang also had a
laceration behind his right ear and had a three to four inch long
wooden stick protruding from his mouth. The autopsy determined that
the cause of death was multiple stab wounds, which severed the jugular
vein, and the shotgun wounds. Investigators believe that Vang was shot
from a closer distance than claimed by Nichols and that Vang was
turning away when shot.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6 governs the ethical
obligations prosecutors have when dealing with pre-trial and trial
publicity. Because of this rule, prosecutors cannot discuss details of
a case prior to charging. These rules also require that prosecutors
ensure that law enforcement agencies also comply with these
restrictions. Even after charging, prosecutors and law enforcement
cannot discuss matters not described in the public record. Thus, there
will be no additional comment on the investigation or charges at this

This matter has been investigated by the Marinette County Sheriff's
Department, with the assistance of the Wisconsin Department of Justice
- Division of Criminal Investigation, the State Crime Lab, the Peshtigo
Police Department, the Marinette Police Department, the Green Bay
Police Department, the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources, and the Menominee, Michigan Sheriff's
Department. Investigation into this matter is ongoing and the State
Crime Lab is in the process of examining evidence in this case. Anyone
with further information regarding this matter is encouraged to contact
the Marinette County Sheriff's Department at 715-732-7310.

Marinette County Sheriff Jim Kanikula, members of his department, the
Marinette County District Attorney, an assistant attorney general, and
representatives of the Marinette County and Wisconsin Department of
Justice victim witness programs have met with Vang's wife and family
members and will continue to provide all necessary assistance and

The defendant enjoys a presumption of innocence. A criminal complaint
is only an accusation and the state must prove its allegations at

Marinette County District Attorney Brent DeBord held a press conference
today at 12 noon at the Marinette County Sheriff's Department to
announce the filing of the criminal complaint.

A copy of the criminal complaint will be made available at the
Wisconsin Department of Justice website: