Archive for Saturday, April 2, 2005

Defendant in deadly chase gets 7 years

Nam Ouk Cho, 21, has already served two years for 2003 fatality

April 2, 2005


A judge Friday sentenced a Lee's Summit, Mo., man to seven and a half years in prison for killing a Lawrence woman during a high-speed police chase in August 2003.

Douglas County District Court Judge Robert Fairchild departed from the standard sentence for second-degree murder, reducing the amount of time that 21-year-old Nam Ouk Cho will spend in prison by more than two years.

Cho reached a plea agreement with prosecutors back in January, pleading guilty to the second-degree murder charge, as well as possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

In exchange for the plea, the District Attorney's Office agreed not to oppose the sentences for all four crimes running concurrently.

The charges stem from the police chase and ensuing crash at 31st Street and Nieder Road that killed 56-year-old Judith Vellucci, who was returning home from an errand to pick up a prescription for her dog.

Police chased Cho through Lawrence, starting near Ninth and Maine streets, after other drivers reported seeing him driving in oncoming lanes of traffic.

Vellucci's family was not present for Friday's sentencing, and the defendant did not address the judge. But after the hearing, his attorneys said their client was a good kid, who did a bad thing after getting mixed up with drugs.

"Hopefully, kids can learn from this," defense attorney John Benge said. "It really shows that it doesn't take a lifetime of bad decisions to end up with somebody being hurt seriously or killed, and somebody else's life altered dramatically by having to go to prison for a long time."

Cho has already served nearly two years in the Douglas County Jail, which will count toward his sentence. His attorneys said that with time off for good behavior, Cho could be released from prison in just over four years.

"He is very torn up inside," Benge said. "He knows that he took the ultimate away from somebody, and he said to me that he wished there was some way to give it back."

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