Ber pleads guilty to murdering Albert Lea manPublished 12:43pm Friday, July 20, 2012
ST. PAUL — A St. Paul man admitted on Friday to killing Albert Lea resident Po Lye last November during a fight at his apartment.
During the argument on Nov. 19, Pah Ber, 49, said he used a knife from his kitchen to stab Lye, 40, first in the stomach. Then, as Lye tried to get away, Ber caught up to him and stabbed him in the neck. He stabbed Lye several more times until he was dead.
The admission came Friday as Ber pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court to second-degree murder with intent. Ber also pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, causing great bodily harm, of his wife, Paw Pree, 40, during the same assault.
The guilty plea was part of an agreement with the Ramsey County Attorney’s office. Ber had been scheduled to enter the same plea a week ago but at the last minute rejected the offer.
In custody in a dark green Ramsey County jail jumpsuit, Ber answered “yes” or “no” questions through an interpreter speaking Karen. District Court Judge Elena Ostby on multiple occasions asked Ber if he understood the consequences of his actions, to which he answered yes.
Ber said he arrived at his apartment — in St. Paul’s North End neighborhood — early Nov. 19, where he lived with his wife and children. He found Lye sleeping on the living room couch.
At one point he said he got into an argument with Lye, and he got angry because he assumed Lye was having an improper relationship with his wife. He then grabbed a knife from his kitchen and stabbed Lye.
After killing him, Ber said, he was still angry and went to find Pree in a bedroom. He said he stabbed her in the eyes, intending to injure her, even blind her.
Lye had reportedly been living in Albert Lea for about a year. He was among about 200 Karen people residing in Albert Lea.
The Karen people originate mainly from Burma but also a small part of Thailand. They comprise 7 percent of the Burmese population and have been a minority persecuted by the Burmese military. Many have immigrated to Minnesota under federal refugee-protection laws.
Lye worked at Albert Lea Select Foods. A representative of the Karen Organization of Minnesota said Lye did not have family in Minnesota but did have friends in Albert Lea and St. Paul.
Ber faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
“He’s always been remorseful for what he’s done,” Ber’s lawyer, Marcus Almon, said after the hearing. “He’s always wanted to get this resolved.”
Almon said in court that given Ber’s immigration status, he will likely be deported once his sentence is over. His sentencing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 31.