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Metal shanks hidden in cake leads to tighter security at Sacramento murder trial

August 3, 2011 | 11:54 am

Security at the Sacramento trial of two brothers accused of murdering a state prison officer will be increased after a pretrial hearing revealed the brothers had tried to pass shanks concealed in a chocolate frosting-covered cake through the downtown jail where they are being held.

The Sacramento Bee reported that sheriff's Sgt. Dan Morrisey testified at a Tuesday security hearing that Chong Vue had the yellow cake in his cell and asked a deputy to take it to his younger brother, Gary, who was held in another section of the jail.

"When they opened that cake up, there were several metal pieces," Morrisey said told the paper, adding that the pieces were from a cookie sheet that was missing from the kitchen.

Chong Vue's cell was then searched, as well as other cells in the jail, Morrisey said. Twenty-four "different pieces of metal" were found that "were in the process of being moved and turned into shanks," he said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Eric Kindall said the incident "sounds like something right out of the movies."

The testimony from Morrisey and another jail deputy prompted Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White to increase security on the brothers, whose trial began Wednesday with jury selection. The Vues will be chained at the waist and ankle during the trial, though the chains will be covered so jurors can't see or hear them. The brothers can also be strip-searched each day before entering the court room to make sure they have no weapons, White said.

Officials had also requested that the defendants be handcuffed, but White tentatively decided that each brother be allowed to keep one hand free to write.

Chong Vue, 32, and Gary Vue, 31, are accused of shooting and killing Steve Lo, 39, at his Sacramento home in October 2008, just as Lo was leaving for his job as a state correction officer at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville.

Prosecutors said the two were carrying out a hit taken out by their older brother, Chue Vue, 46, a former Sacramento sheriff's deputy. Chue Vue had discovered his wife was having an affair with Lo and retained his brothers to kill him, prosecutors say.

Chue Vue has already been convicted for arranging the murder of Lo. He is currently serving a sentence of life without parole.

The younger Vues, Chong and Gary, have previously been convicted of a gang murder in Minnesota. If they are convicted again in the Lo killing, they too will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.


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-- Kate Mather