Man who killed friend in 'freak accident' at meatpacking plant gets jail, probation
A former Rockford man was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 30 months of probation after pleading guilty Thursday to unintentionally killing his friend with a knife while they worked at a Hampshire meatpacking plant.
Ler Htoo, 26, who now lives in Wisconsin, pleaded guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter in the Aug. 2, 2017, death of Ai Moo Say, 22, of Rockford.
Kane County Judge John Barsanti accepted the plea from Htoo, who was born in Thailand and is in the country on visa as a Burmese refugee, his attorney said.
"It was a horrible, horrible accident. It was a freak incident," said defense attorney Christopher DeRango, who added Htoo pleaded guilty to avoid putting Say's family through a trial. "This young man was (Htoo's) friend. To this day, he's torn up about it."
Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Stajdohar said Htoo and Say worked at a meat-cutting table at a plant on 200 Flannigan Road, Hampshire, which has since moved.
"Some type of horseplay ensued" while the two worked, with Say throwing chunks of trimmed beef fat at Htoo, Stajdohar said. Htoo raised a 6-inch knife to pretend to throw it and "that knife slipped out of his hand, striking Ai Moo Say in the heart."
According to Hampshire police reports, Say had been pelting Htoo with fat chunks for several days before the accident -- the last toss was a chunk that hit Htoo below the belt. A co-worker at the former Malcom Meats/Buckhead Beef plant corroborated Htoo's statement to police that the knife slipped out of his hand and struck Say, according to police report.
Htoo will surrender to jail May 13 and must serve 100 percent of his 180-day sentence. He gets credit for seven days served at the jail before posting bond. If Htoo violates his probation, he could be resentenced to up to five years in prison.