Mpls. police file new charges in 1999 murder case

The Hennepin County Attorney's office has filed first-degree murder charges against a St. Paul man in a nearly 15-year-old murder case.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said 32-year-old Earl Vang was one of two men who shot and killed Miguel McElroy outside of a north Minneapolis convenience store on July 9, 1999.

Police say Vang and Tou Yang shot McElroy, 19, after a drug deal went bad. A Hennepin County jury in 1999 convicted Yang of second degree murder, attempted murder and assault. According to court documents, the men also shot McElroy's father, Curtis Campbell, who survived.

Hennepin County District Judge Bruce Peterson last summer ordered a new trial for Yang, ruling that he received ineffective representation from his lawyer - and that a witness's new statement and new evidence identified potential suspects.

That allowed Minneapolis police and Hennepin County prosecutors to reopen the case.

Last year, police interviewed newly discovered witnesses who identified Vang as one of the shooters. A firearms examiner determined that the bullets used in the shooting came from two different handguns, according to court documents.

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Prosecutors charged Vang two weeks ago on two counts of second-degree murder. But Freeman said Friday that new evidence presented to a grand jury led to the first-degree murder charges against him. They also filed first-degree murdger charges against Yang.

"DNA left in 1999, which could not be tested because the amount was small, can be tested today," Freemean said. "So, similar to a cold hit case -- which we have sometimes -- when we've saved DNA we now have that additional DNA evidence which gives additional evidence for the first-degree murder indictments."

Freeman said Vang posted a $200,000 bond and is not in custody. If convicted, he likely will be sentenced to life in prison.

Vang's attorney, Earl Gray, sai his client will plead not guilty in court next week.