State briefs for October 24

Bonsai tree stolen after owner raised it for decades

HONOLULU — Police are trying to find a rare bonsai tree that was stolen from a nursery owner who says he spent 56 years caring for it.

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The tree was taken in September from David Fukumoto’s nursery in Mountain View, he said.

Fukumoto began growing the tree in 1962 to spruce up the bare-bones Honolulu apartment he and his wife lived in as newlyweds, he said Tuesday.

“I ended up getting hooked on growing bonsai,” said the 78-year-old operator of Fuku-Bonsai nursery. “I feel as if they kidnapped my daughter. This is my first bonsai.”

Fukumoto said the tree was on higher ground when flooding from Hurricane Lane wiped out some of his other bonsai trees in August.

Police don’t want to reveal the tree’s value, said Capt. Ken Quiocho. Police started asking the public for help Tuesday because they exhausted leads, he said.

Police think the person who took the tree was familiar with it and knew its value.

3 injured after helicopter crashes on sandbar

KANEOHE, Oahu — A pilot and two passengers were found injured when rescuers responded to a helicopter crash on a Kaneohe Bay sandbar.

Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Scot Seguirant said the helicopter ended up on its side Monday on the sandbar.

Seguirant said kayakers and fishermen on a boat helped rescue the three people from the helicopter. They were alert with various injuries.

Novictor, the tour company that owns the helicopter, said the pilot is thought to have suffered a medical emergency during the flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the Robinson R44 helicopter crashed under unknown circumstances.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

State plans veterans home on former mill site

HONOLULU — The state is seeking to build a $70 million veterans home on part of the former Aiea Sugar Mill site owned by Honolulu, prompting criticism from community leaders.

The state Office of Veterans’ Services announced the plan earlier this month to construct the 120-bed facility on land the city bought 16 years ago intending to support preservation of the area’s plantation heritage.

The facility was planned for a vacant property owned by the University of Hawaii, but Col. Ron Han, Veterans’ Services director, said the university withdrew the location.

However, UH said that’s false and the land has not been withdrawn for consideration. University President David Lassner sent a letter July 12 confirming the university’s intent to lease the land.

A site needs to be secured to avoid losing $40 million in federal funding for the project, according to state representatives.

Some Aiea community leaders oppose the mill site after they worked for more than a decade to redevelop the property. The project was presented during an Aiea Neighborhood Board meeting, leading some community members to say they felt ambushed by the presentation and thought the state was pitting veterans against area residents.

The 19-acre mill property once was part of the Honolulu Plantation Co. The city bought 7 acres for $8.9 million in 2002.

Han said site was put forward as the only other viable option. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is planning to acquire the property from the city.

Ex-prosecutor wife of ex-chief gets trial delayed

HONOLULU — A judge says medical records of the wife of a retired Honolulu police chief convince him that a trial on allegations she and her husband bilked banks, relatives and others to fund their lavish lifestyle needs to be postponed.

U.S. Magistrate Richard Puglisi on Tuesday granted ex-Honolulu prosecutor Katherine Kealoha’s request to postpone the trial, which was scheduled for next month.

Puglisi said confidential medical records prove Kealoha won’t be able to attend a November trial and wouldn’t be able to assist in her defense.

The trial against Kealoha and her husband, Louis Kealoha, focuses on allegations the Kealohas were so desperate to fund their lifestyle and maintain a power couple status that they swindled banks, relatives and children whose trust funds Katherine Kealoha controlled when she was in private practice.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday to discuss new trial dates.

Prosecutors opposed the delay, saying Kealoha has a history of “feigning serious illness.”

The couple are scheduled to face a second trial in March, along with four current and former officers, in what has become one of Hawaii’s biggest public corruption scandals. The Kealohas are accused of trying to frame an uncle in an attempt to discredit him in a family financial dispute.

Man accused in deadly shooting pleads not guilty

HONOLULU — A man accused in a deadly shooting at an illegal game room in Honolulu pleaded not guilty.

Deputy Public Defender Doris Lum entered a not guilty plea Monday on behalf of 35-year-old Prescott Kesi, who is charged with second-degree attempted murder and two firearm offenses.

Kesi approached 28-year-old Pitulo Vaipapa and yelled at him on Sept. 30 at the game room in Kalihi, Honolulu police said. He then used a handgun to strike Vaipapa on the head.

Vaipapa was shot in the head after the two men wrestled and the gun went off twice, police said. Kesi fled after a bouncer gained control of the gun.

Kesi surrendered to officers at a police station about an hour after the shooting.

Vaipapa was taken in critical condition to a hospital and died last week.

A Honolulu judge found probable cause for Kesi to stand trial on the attempted murder charge before Vaipapa died. Prosecutors likely will seek a murder charge.

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He remains incarcerated in the Oahu Community Correctional Center. His bail was maintained at $500,000.

A trial is scheduled for late December.

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