New Salem man pleads guilty, is sentenced to 22-25 years in 2016 Amherst death


Soknang Chham, 35, of New Salem, pleaded guilty today in Hampshire Superior Court to manslaughter and other charges in connection with the death of Jose “Joselito” Rodriguez, in Amherst, on Oct. 15, 2016.

Chham was sentenced by Judge Richard Carey to a total of 22-25 years in state prison. He is to serve 18-20 years for the manslaughter charge, and 4-5 years from and after for the charge of assault and battery by discharging a firearm.  He will also serve 5-7 years concurrent to those terms for unlawful possession of a firearm (second offense) and 10-15 years concurrent for unlawful possession of a firearm with two prior convictions for violent crimes.

Prosecutor Matthew Thomas said Chham fired a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun into a crowded stairwell at the Southpoint apartments for no apparent reason, killing Rodriguez and seriously injuring another victim. Chham and his brother fled from police to Arizona, where they were apprehended and transported back to Massachusetts.

“I would like thank the Rodriguez family for their patience and thank the investigators for the hard work they put into this case,” Thomas said. “It’s a meaningful punishment for a significant crime.”

Chham’s attorney William O’Neil said Chham, who is Cambodian, was born in a Red Cross refugee camp in Thailand and it is not clear which country would accept him were he to be deported.