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Sophea Mouth

Sophea “Bruce” Mouth, appears in court on Tuesday with his lawyers. At right is Khmer interpreter Pheap Chhorm.

A Madison man charged last week with the shooting death of a man who was attempting to reclaim an auto repair shop won back in a foreclosure pleaded not guilty Tuesday after he was ordered to stand trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

Sophea “Bruce” Mouth, 52, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide for shooting Tom Dreger, 70, to death on Nov. 13 outside of Freeport Auto, 2001 Freeport Road, on Madison’s Southwest Side. He is also charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for wounding Gregory Pongratz, 52.

Madison police Detective Mindy Winter, testifying during a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, said that Mouth told the first officer on the scene, “I did,” when asked who had shot the two men, and said “yes” when asked again if he shot them.

A friend of Mouth’s who witnessed the shooting told police that words were exchanged between Dreger and Mouth when Dreger and Pongratz came to change the locks on the business, Winter testified, until Mouth pulled out a gun and began firing.

Nobody involved in the exchange made any threats or physically attacked another before the shots were fired, the friend told police, Winter testified.

Mouth’s lawyer, Stanley Woodard, pressed Winter on cross examination about whether the friend had actually seen Mouth pull out and fire the gun. Winter said that the criminal complaint indicates that he had said twice that he saw that happen, and then once said he did not.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas said there was probable cause to believe that Mouth committed the crimes and ordered him to stand trial, at a date to be determined later by a different judge.

Mouth remains in the Dane County Jail on $1 million bail.

Mouth, through a woman named Bophia So, was buying the shop from Dreger on a land contract, but Dreger won foreclosure of the contract in September because payments on the property were not being made.

Court records indicate that a redemption period for the foreclosure ended at midnight on Nov. 13, after which Mouth was to leave the property.

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Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.