MILWAUKEE (AP) — A man with a history of mental illness was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no possibility of parole for killing three of his neighbors in a Milwaukee apartment building.
Dan Popp was convicted in November of first-degree intentional homicide after pleading no contest in the March 2016 shooting deaths of Phia Vue, his wife, Mai Vue, and Jesus Manso-Perez. He was also convicted of attempted first-degree homicide for shooting Manso-Perez’ son. A jury rejected Popp’s insanity defense, finding he was mentally ill but able to conform his behavior to the law.
Prosecutors said Popp shot Manso-Perez and his son shortly after asking him where they were from and learning they were from Puerto Rico. He then forced his way into the Vues’ apartment as the Hmong couple, their four children and a relative hid in a bedroom. Then he killed the couple.
“I’d give anything to see and hear my parents’ voices again, anything,” their son, Alexander Vue, said during the sentencing hearing. “Even though you took away my mom and dad, I forgive you. But the hole that you made in my heart will never be filled.”
Popp’s sister, Dawn Johnson, also spoke, WISN-TV reported.
“It has been an emotional journey for the past two years, and I have struggled for months to come up with words for the Vue and Manso-Perez families besides telling them that I am very sorry this has happened to their families,” she said.
Popp, who is white, was not charged with a hate crime despite calls from the victims’ families. He was initially judged incompetent to stand trial. During the insanity phase of his trial, jurors heard testimony that Popp was psychotic — listening to God’s voice and thinking people were robots.
In 2008, police in the Milwaukee County suburb of Greenfield confiscated an assault rifle and a handgun from Popp after he claimed he sensed demons and witchcraft in his mother’s house, and said he believed unknown people were plotting to murder him. He was taken to the county’s mental health complex on an emergency detention. Authorities later returned the guns to him.
While two guns were found at the scene of the killings, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that investigators have never said whether they were the same guns that were confiscated from him.