- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

NEOSHO, MO. (AP) - A man who pleaded guilty Friday to killing three people and wounding four others at a church apologized for the murders and said he was driven by shame from his relatives’ taunting at a barbecue.

Eiken Saimon (EYE’-kuhn SEYE’-muhn) testified that a week before the shootings, his relatives gave him “a hard time” because he didn’t bring food to the party. He said they accused of him stealing food for his children.

He said he brought two handguns to First Congregational Church because he knew they would be there for the Sunday service run by fellow Micronesian immigrants in their native language of Pingelapese.

“I knew they would all be at church on Sunday afternoon,” he testified. “I was still really mad, but I knew what I was doing.”

Saimon, 54, pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and four counts of assault in the attack on Aug. 12, 2007, as about 50 congregants looked on. He also pleaded guilty to charges of statutory rape and statutory sodomy for a sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl two days before the shootings.

“What I did ruined many people’s lives, and it ruined my life too,” he said in court.

Under a deal with Newton County prosecutors to avoid the death penalty, Saimon received three life sentences without parole, plus four 30-year sentences for the assaults and two seven-year sentences for the sex offenses.

The sentences will run consecutively.

Authorities said Saimon killed three religious leaders of the congregation, including the son of one of his cousins and the son’s uncle. Saimon said he had expected to be shot by police.

Saimon was scheduled to go on trial in June and prosecutors had filed court papers seeking the death penalty. But Newton County prosecutor Jacob Skouby said the plea emerged after some victims’ family members said they wanted to avoid a trial and others said that the death penalty wasn’t accepted in Micronesian culture.

About 600 native Pacific Islanders live in Missouri near Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma state lines. Many were attracted by jobs at poultry plants and other factories.

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