Wisconsin man pleads not guilty in death of Hmong hunter

(AP) - A Wisconsin man has pleaded not guilty to fatally shooting and stabbing a Hmong hunter in woods near Peshtigo, in a slaying that has rekindled racial tension in northern Wisconsin.

James Nicholas, 28, entered his plea Monday in Marinette Circuit Court. His trial -- set to last five days -- is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

Nichols is accused of killing Cha Vang, 30, of Green Bay while both were squirrel hunting Jan. 5.

Nichols also pleaded not guilty to hiding a corpse and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was charged as a habitual criminal because of his previous conviction for burglary.

Two years ago in northwest Wisconsin, a Hmong deer hunter from St. Paul was sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing six white hunters in 2004. Some Hmong have speculated that Nichols killed Vang in retaliation.

Wisconsin, Minnesota and California are home to the largest populations of Hmong, an ethnic minority that fled Laos after the Vietnam War.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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