Minnesota Man Charged With Murder After Stalking, Harassment Allegedly Results In Ex-Girlfriend’s Suicide
A man in Minnesota has been charged by a county prosecutor with murder after his ex-girlfriend committed suicide, according to a report from People. Allegedly, Long Vang, 34, stalked and harassed Jessica Damian Haban, 28, until she felt compelled to take her own life. Haban and Vang had two children together over the course of their near-11-year relationship.
The charges were laid by Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem, who indicated that he was aware that the charges might be unprecedented; not only in Minnesota, but in general.
“We have put a lot more scrutiny into charging this than in a typical case,” he said. “We know there are going to be some challenges and some questions. We plan to have our ducks in a row.”
Officially, Vang faces charges of third-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and stalking. He has not yet entered a plea.
When announcing the charges, Ostrem’s office stated that “Mr. Vang subjected his partner to ever-increasing levels of domestic abuse. The abuse was verbal, emotional, mental, and physical… In May 2015, Mr. Vang’s abuse resulted in a traumatic brain injury to his partner.”
“Ultimately his partner took her own life to escape the relationship.”
Getting the murder charge to stick won’t be easy. Third-degree murder, also known as voluntary manslaughter in some cases, still requires that the court prove an intention to kill.
“I believe Mr. Vang’s conduct directly contributed to the death of his partner. Mr. Vang was clearly aware of the precarious state of his partner’s emotions following her hospitalizations and he continued his relentless contacts until her death,” Ostrem said, in a statement. But it will be difficult to convince a judge that this indicated an active intent to kill.
According to the Star Tribune, the prosecution’s position is predicated entirely on the idea that Vang abused Haban until she lost her will to live.
Haban grew up in Rochester, graduating from John Marshall High School in 2006. According to her obituary, she and Vang were “culturally married” in 2010. Her mother, Rita Prinzing, said that Haban had recently graduated cosmetology school, and was balancing “taking care of the kids, working and going to school. … She was amazing.”
“[The charges] mean there is finally going to be some justice for Jessica. While we know that it won’t bring her back, he will be held accountable.”
According to the charges, Haban suffered persistent, brutal abuse at Vang’s hands, in spite of a court order requiring him to have no contact with her. Among other things, she had her hair pulled, was thrown against the wall, and knocked unconscious; at the time of her death, bruises were evident on her arms, legs and hands.
The charges also allege that, at a gathering at a home in Austin, Vang put a knife to her throat, and only gave up the weapon when someone in the house intervened.
The reasons for the disputes were far-reaching as well. According to the various complaints filed, one was caused by jealousy, another by financial issues. One particularly outstanding complaint indicated that Vang poured vegetable oil “all over” Haban because “she had bad in her.”
She also told a county social worker assigned to her domestic abuse case that Vang had been pressuring her to leave mental health care and return home. He told her that if she didn’t, she would be institutionalized and lose her children. On December 10, she told her care worker that she wanted to end her treatment; she was discharged three days later.
Bob Small, executive director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, said that Ostrem was “being courageous” with his approach of charging Vang with murder, and suggested that, if successful, other prosecutors might follow suit. Liz Richards, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, said that there was “a documented court record about domestic violence of some type” in many suicide cases, and that “that this is an issue that warrants deeper inquiry and research.”
It looks like Ostrem and his office have an uphill battle in front of them. Do you think he should be charged with murder? leave your comments below.
[Photo via Olmstead County Jail handout]