Ber gets 30 years for stabbing

Published 6:49 pm Saturday, September 1, 2012

ST. PAUL — Calling the case “particularly heinous,” a Ramsey County District Court Judge sentenced a St. Paul man to 30 years, seven months in prison Friday for stabbing his wife in the eyes and killing an Albert Lea man.

Judge Elena Ostby said the stab wounds inflicted on Albert Lean Po Lye by Pah Ber, 49, were “significantly deep,” so much so that Lye, 40, was nearly decapitated.

Because of this, Ostby said, she chose to sentence Ber, a former meat cutter in Albert Lea, to the maximum allowable time for second-degree murder under Minnesota sentencing guidelines. She said while Ber appears to accept responsibility for his actions, he has not shown remorse.

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“The court finds there’s a significant difference between accepting responsibility for actions and showing remorse,” Ostby said.

The sentence for Lye’s murder will be served concurrently with a nine-year, two-month sentence for first-degree assault on Ber’s wife. While she is not blind, Pree has suffered substantial damage to her vision.

The Friday sentencing order came after Ber pleaded guilty in July to murdering Lye and stabbing his wife. At that time, Ber said he intended to kill Lye when he walked into his St. Paul apartment last November and saw Lye sleeping on his couch.

He said he assumed Lye was having an inappropriate relationship with his wife, so he began arguing with him and at one point grabbed a knife from the kitchen. He stabbed Lye in the stomach and then in the neck, killing him. Afterward, he said he went to find his wife — who was in a separate room with their five kids — and stabbed her in the eyes, intending to blind her.

Lye had reportedly been living in Albert Lea for about a year at the time of the stabbing.

Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Ann Kahn on Friday described Lye as a husband, father and brother and said he had family in Norway and in a refugee camp in Thailand. He was among about 200 Karen residents in Albert Lea.

The Karen people come mainly from Burma and a small part of Thailand. They comprise 7 percent of the Burmese population and are a minority persecuted by the Burmese military. Many immigrated to Minnesota under federal refugee-protection laws.

Kahn described the case as one with “particular cruelty,” noting the injuries evoked were “unusual and extreme.”

Kahn argued Ber be sentenced consecutively on the two charges, not concurrently. That would have equated to 39 years in prison.

She argued it was not the first time Ber had assaulted his wife and threatened to kill her. She also pointed out that Ber even threatened to kill one of his own children when he tried to intervene.

“He failed to recognize the tragedy of his own unprovoked actions,” she said.

Ber’s lawyer, Marcus Almon, argued the sentences be served concurrently, noting Ber has a history of mental illness, undiagnosed delusional jealousy, depression and sleep deprivation. He reportedly used alcohol to help him sleep and was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the murder.

“When you take all of these things together, they led to this unfortunate event,” Almon said. “If you take any one of these factors away, we probably wouldn’t be standing here.”

During the hearing Friday, Ber stood looking down for most of the time, though at a few points during the proceeding he looked ahead or looked back at his wife and daughter.

When asked if he wanted to speak by Ostby, he declined the opportunity to do so.

Ostby ordered Ber pay restitution to the Crime Victims Reparation Boar for about $6,220. She also ordered he pay restitution for any out-of-pocket damages requested by Pree and said she was concerned Pree would not be able to support herself given the nature of her disability.

Ber was given credit for 287 days already spent in the Ramsey County Jail. Under Minnesota guidelines, Ber will required to spend at least 20 years and about two months of the 30-year sentence in prison, while the remainder will be spent on supervised release.