Life sentence in downtown Hilo murder

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JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Curtis Q. Hodges, left, stands with his court-appointed attorney, Stanton Oshiro, on Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court.
DANIELLE CARON
CHLOE CARON
JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Todd McDonald, who had been in a relationship with murder victim Danielle Caron, stood in the courtroom gallery while holding a photo of her during the sentencing hearing Wednesday.

The daughter of a 49-year-old woman who was stabbed to death 2 1/2 years ago in downtown Hilo said she is counseling other people who are family of homicide victims.

“Although I have suffered and endured the worst possible thing that can happen, I plan to use this pain and help people,” Chloe Caron wrote in a letter to Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura. “… For the fact that my mother, weighing 110 pounds and just under 5 feet tall was attacked in the night, by someone she had never seen. Fought for her life, and then was raped and stabbed in the throat multiple times is beyond words.”

Caron is the daughter of Danielle Caron, who was stabbed to death Aug. 14, 2015, in an alcove at 76 Kamehameha Ave., fronting the Koehnen Building. Danielle Caron had been living in Pahoa but became homeless shortly before she was murdered.

On Wednesday, Nakamura sentenced Curtis Q. Hodges of Shiloh, Ill., to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Hodges pleaded no contest on Nov. 29 to second-degree murder. He wasn’t charged with sexual assault.

Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Kagawa described Danielle Caron as “a mother and a friend” and told the judge there was “no reason” for her death.

“The defendant’s actions were violent and senseless,” Kagawa said. “He chose to prey on this woman who was alone and vulnerable, late at night. He didn’t know her. He didn’t have a prior argument with her. But for some reason, something we’ll never understand, he violently stabbed and killed Danielle Caron.”

Stanton Oshiro, Hodges’ court-appointed attorney, said the case “was unlike any other homicide case I’ve ever resolved” and told the judge Hodges “insisted on pleading guilty.”

“He sent multiple letters to the government, essentially confessing. He has been remorseful from the minute I met him,” Oshiro said.

Oshiro said he disagreed with the reports of three mental health professionals who found Hodges fit to proceed with trial, but added Hodges wouldn’t allow him to further pursue a possible diminished mental capacity defense.

“What is clear from those reports is that Mr. Hodges, in fact, does suffer from mental illness,” he said. “… He doesn’t understand why he was involved with this, but he has always been remorseful.”

“Bull——,” interjected Todd McDonald, who had been in a relationship with Danielle Caron and stood in the courtroom gallery holding a large photograph of her during the entire proceeding.

“Excuse me, man in the gallery with the picture. I don’t want you to say anything,” Nakamura replied. McDonald remained silent for the remainder of the hearing.

Hodges was asked by the judge if he wanted to speak, but declined.

Hodges’ plea deal calls for the state to recommend a 20-year minimum sentence to the Hawaii Paroling Authority, which Chloe Caron wrote is “not fair to me and not fair to the world.”

“If it were up to me, life without parole would be the minimum of the sentencing. I was shocked to learn that this wasn’t an option in Hawaii,” she said. “… The simple fact that I have to explain why I think he should serve more jail time, truly makes me so sad. How is this even a question? He murdered a helpless woman, defenseless in the middle of the night. With his hands, for no reason.”

Chloe Caron also noted the bitter irony of a Valentine’s Day sentencing.

“No longer will this day be celebrated with my love, but a reminder of the day my (mother’s) murderer was sentenced,” she said. “Every day is still a challenge and the day and night terrors are still very present. I still, and forever will be in so much pain. I will never get my mom back or any justice. Jail or not, he gets to live for free off my tax money and get fed. There is no justice for this situation, only thing left is protecting others.

“My mother cannot be protected, he killed her. I would never want anyone to experience the pain I have from this man. Ever.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.