Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Suspect in Lealman birthday party killing captured near Gainesville

LEALMAN — After 15 hours on the run, a gunman wanted in a killing during a party at a mobile home park was captured Sunday morning north of Gainesville, authorities said.

Deputies had been searching since Saturday evening for Khonesavanh "Lucky" Kakhankham, 56. They said he was armed and dangerous, and put out an alert to police to be on the lookout for him and his silver Toyota 4Runner.

Sunday morning, the Florida Highway Patrol spotted him at a rest stop in Columbia County, which is north of Gainesville, and arrested him.

The shooting happened about 7:30 p.m. Saturday during a gathering at the Avery Acres Mobile Home Park, 3565 58th Ave. N, Lot 103.

Pinellas County deputies said Khamfong Vixayarath, 50, who lives in the park, was shot during an altercation. He was taken to a hospital, but died.

Deputies identified Kakhankham as a murder suspect and issued a warrant.

Samantha Vixayarath, Khamfong Vixayarath's 20-year-old daughter, said through sobs Sunday that her father was a good man who could fix anything.

He never hesitated to take on new projects, she said, such as converting a singlewide mobile home into a doublewide. For a living, he assembled parts for an air conditioning company.

She didn't see her dad as often as she wanted because he lived near St. Petersburg and she lives in Tampa, she said. She talked to him on the phone Wednesday.

As a father, she said, he enjoyed relaxing around the house and watching WWE wrestling with her twin brother.

"They would bond over it," she said. "He was a great father, always really loving."

Pon Bounsouysana, 67, lived next door to Vixayarath and said he was a quiet man who lived alone. When he went fishing, he always offered Bounsouysana and her husband fish, she said.

But Vixayarath, Bounsouysana added, along with other neighbors in the mobile home park, often drank and socialized together, which sometimes led to arguments.

"People drink," she said. "One day, we'll have a problem."

On Saturday night, some neighbors had gathered at a birthday party at Lot 103. Vixayarath was invited, but Kakhankham wasn't. Kakhankham showed up and a scuffle erupted between him and Vixayarath, Bounsouysana said.

Kakhankham backed out of the home, his arms raised in defeat, she said. But he later returned. Bounsouysana's husband spotted him rushing down the street with a gun behind his back.

Just moments later, Bounsouysana heard a single gunshot.

"He ran like he wanted to kill," she said. "Evil inside his body."

Shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday, investigators learned Kakhankham had just made a purchase at a Walmart in the Gainesville area and updated their alert. The Highway Patrol passed the information to troopers in the area.

Minutes later, the patrol said, Trooper Hazen Ogden spotted the suspect's vehicle northbound on Interstate 75 at the Columbia County rest area. He called for backup, and he and Trooper Keith Slanker pulled over Kakhankham a few miles away, the patrol said.

He was arrested and taken to the Columbia County Jail, the patrol said. He was being held without bail on a warrant.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has not yet said what charges Kakhankham will face. Pinellas investigators were headed Sunday to question him about the killing.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Kakhankham previously had been arrested on drunken driving charges and on a simple battery charge in the state.

He pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor battery charge in 2005, records show, and adjudication was withheld. He was arrested on misdemeanor DUI charges in 2001 and 2004. The records do not show the disposition of the 2001 case, but show he was convicted in the 2004 case.

Records show the victim, Vixayarath, was arrested in 2009 in Hillsborough County on a contempt of court charge.

News researcher Natalie S. Watson contributed to this report.

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