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Hmong Woman Pleads Guilty to Killing

June 6, 2003

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A woman whose murder case brought to light polygamy in the nation’s largest Hmong community pleaded guilty to stabbing her husband to death after he told her he planned to take a second wife.

Youa Lee, 44, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday in a plea bargain with prosecutors. A more serious murder charge will be dropped.

Lee was indicted for allegedly stabbing her husband, Pao Her, three times while he showered on Feb. 12, 2002, after he told her he planned to marry again. As some of their children dialed 911, Lee attempted suicide with a toxic cleaning product.

She is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 1.

Many Hmong women say tolerance of polygamy is widespread even among men who grew up in the United States. Male Hmong leaders have said the practice of taking a second or third wife is rare and limited to older men.

``Women are talking about it,″ said Foua Hang, a Hmong women’s activist. ``They still may not be very strong and vocal, but they are talking.″

Lee and Her married 28 years ago in Laos in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. She was 17 and he was 16. They soon moved to Thailand, where the first of their seven children was born, and arrived in St. Paul in 1989.

The Hmong, an ethnic group that lived primarily in the highlands of Laos, began flowing to the United States soon after the Vietnam War. About 42,000 Hmong live in Minnesota, including more than 24,000 in St. Paul.

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