Sheriff: 3 dead at Wisconsin quarry were shot over $600 debt

Three men who were found dead last week at the entrance of a Wisconsin quarry were forced to kneel on the ground before they were shot multiple times over a $600 debt, officials said Thursday.

Khamthaneth Rattanasack, 44, and Nya Thao, 33, have each been charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

They are accused of killing Peng Lor and Nemo Yang, both 24, and Trevor Maloney, 23, whose bodies were discovered shortly before 5 a.m. on July 23 outside the Romskog Quarry in western Wisconsin by two workers, La Crosse County Sheriff Jeff Wolf said.

Wolf said that hours after the bodies were found, a woman told authorities that she was with the victims the night before they were killed and the four of them were staying in the same hotel room in Onalaska. The woman said that early on the morning of July 23, she and the victims believed they were being followed by a black Mercedes Benz. They briefly stopped at another hotel and she went inside to drop off some items. She returned to her car to find the Mercedes next to it.

Thao was sitting in her vehicle, behind the driver’s seat, and Rattanasack was in the Mercedes, with one of the victims who had been in her car. The woman said Rattanasack had a gun, Wolf said.

The woman was told to drive her car and follow the Mercedes, then drive to the quarry near West Salem, about 14 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of La Crosse, which is along the Minnesota border. Rattanasack told all three of the victims to get on their knees, then he gave Thao the gun and Thao shot all three men multiple times, Wolf said.

The next day, someone in Minneapolis contacted the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office with information about the slayings. That person told authorities that the killings were over a $600 debt that was owed to Rattanasack, who had just gotten out of prison, Wolf said.

He did not know why the woman’s life was spared. Asked whether she had been threatened, he said he could not comment, but noted that she was fearful.

Rattanasack, also known as "Black" or "Kham," was arrested Wednesday night in Amherst. Thao, also known as "Kush," was arrested early Thursday in Wausau.

Wolf said they are both in custody at the La Crosse County Jail and have not yet made their first court appearance. Court records do not list attorneys to comment on their behalf.

Lor and Yang had no permanent address, but frequently lived in and around the La Crosse area, while Maloney’s last known addresses were in Cashton and Sparta in western Wisconsin, the sheriff’s department said.

Wolf said investigators believe some of the victims and suspects may have been members of rival gangs. He didn’t have specifics on their relationships.

Wolf said authorities do not have additional suspects at this time, but the investigation is ongoing.