California Authorities No Closer to Solving Laotian Marijuana Killings

Fatal shooting of Laotians at marijuana growhouse (Photo: Los Angeles Times)
Fatal shooting of Laotians at marijuana growhouse (Photo: Los Angeles Times)

Authorities in Calfornia, United States, have not provided further clues regarding the mysterious killings of seven Lao nationals at an illegal marijuana growing operation last month.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Riverside Sheriff’s Department has not said if a motive has come to light, nor have they turned up any suspects. The department has apparently declined requests for interviews and placed security holds on coroner’s reports.

US authorities found the bodies of six victims who had been shot to death at the illegal grow site in Aguanga, in rural California. A seventh victim later died in hospital.

More than 20 people lived at the property, where makeshift dwellings, a nursery, and vehicles were used for marijuana production.

Officials seized nearly 500kg of marijuana and hundreds of marijuana plants at the residence. The haul is said to have had a street value of up to USD 5 million.

The product was being processed for honey oil, an extremely potent concentrate made by extracting the chemical THC from cannabis.

The seven gunshot victims found dead at the property were Lao nationals.

The victims included five women, aged 44 to 59, and two men, aged 53 and 64. They were identified as Phone Chankhamany, Souphanh Pienthiene, Thongpath Luangkoth, Samantha Sourignasak, Khamphour Nanthavongdovane, and Vikham and Khamtoune Silimanotham.

The victims left no paper trail, with no public documents or property records related to them available.

According to the Los Angeles Times, recent immigrants from Laos would often arrive at the grow site. Unable to speak English or find employment, they would work and live at the site before moving on.

While twenty people were believed to have lived at the site, only six bodies were found, with the seventh victim dying in hospital. The whereabouts of the others remain unknown, although it is believed the shooting was not a robbery, as there was no sign the site had been robbed.

The current theory is that the grow site may have encroached on the territory of another local network of organized crime, with the killings like an act of retaliation or warning.