Murder suspect ‘erroneously released’ by HCCC


An alleged killer is on the loose and another manhunt is on, police and corrections officials said this afternoon.

According to the state Department of Public Safety, 49-year-old Brian Lee Smith of Honaunau was “erroneously released” from Hawaii Community Correctional Center on Tuesday. DPS is investigating the circumstances surrounding the erroneous release, according to a written statement.


The release apparently wasn’t noticed until Smith failed to show up for a court hearing today, according to the statement.

A bench warrant was issued this afternoon with bail set at $2 million.

Smith was being detained on $1.15 million dollar bail on charges of second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder, first-degree attempted murder, two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts of carrying or use of firearm in the commission of a separate felony.

Smith is accused of a June 23 shooting on Painted Church Road in Honaunau that killed 42-year-old Thomas Ballesteros Jr. and injured 38-year-old Nikolaus Slavik.

Smith is as being 5-feet-7-inches, 130 pounds with graying brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information on Smith’s whereabouts should call the police nonemergency number at 935-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 961-8300.

Smith’s release is the fourth time since 2013 a high-profile defendant was released from custody due to an error somewhere in the system.

Tyler Kamana‘o Taylor, who is serving a 10-year prison term for robbing two tourist campers at knifepoint at Kolekole Beach Park, was released after a paperwork error between the courthouse and the jail on March 6, 2013. Police put out a bulletin seeking public information about his whereabouts June 12, 2013, two days after the Tribune-Herald published a story about his erroneous release from jail. He turned himself in in late August 2013.

William Roy Carroll III, who is serving a five-year sentence for vandalizing and stealing the spear of the Kamehameha statue in Hilo, was released Sept. 15, 2015, after the jail received dismissal papers from Hilo District Court before obtaining a Hilo Circuit Court complaint for the same charges. Carroll was taken into custody the following morning without incident.

And Keanu Krause, who is serving a five-year sentence for second-degree burglary, second-degree theft and six counts of unauthorized control of a stolen vehicle, was also mistakenly released from HCCC after what a prosecutor described as a “paperwork snafu”on June 23, 2017. Police described Krause as “armed and dangerous.” He was taken back into custody without incident in Puna later in the day.

Krause was transferred to Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu after he allegedly assaulted fellow inmate Gilbert DeSa on June 16 at HCCC, leaving the 60-year-old DeSa with multiple facial fractures.


An updated detailed version of this story will appear in Friday’s Tribune-Herald.

Email John Burnett at

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