KEALAKEKUA — For a second time, a jury is deliberating the fate of a man accused of murdering his landlord almost four years ago.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson and defense counsel Terri Fujioka-Lilley delivered closing arguments in the trial of Eber Miranda-Garcia, accused of second-degree murder.
Eber Miranda-Garcia and his brother, Marlon, were arrested in June 2017 for the 2015 killing of Dolores “Lolo” Borja-Valle.
Eber and Marlon Miranda-Garcia were initially tried together in August 2018. After several weeks, those proceedings ended in a mistrial.
The brothers now are being tried separately. Marlon Miranda-Garcia, also accused of second-degree murder, is scheduled for a jury trial in July.
Borja-Valle’s body was found Aug. 9, 2015, dumped in a coffee field off Keopuka Mauka Road in Captain Cook. The victim’s truck was found abandoned in Ocean View the next day. Borja-Valle lived downstairs from the Miranda-Garcia family in Holualoa at the time.
In her closing remarks Tuesday, Lawson told jurors it was a circumstantial case. With the evidence and testimony presented, she thinks the state has met the burden of proof that Eber Miranda-Garcia is guilty.
“This case is like a jigsaw puzzle,” Lawson said. “You need to focus on the evidence of the case. The pieces of evidence fit that the defendant killed Lolo.”
A key item of evidence was Eber Miranda-Garcia’s confession of the murder when he was arrested in 2017. Lawson explained the defendant told jurors in his confession why and how he killed Borja-Valle — it was to protect his family.
Miranda-Garcia’s confession states he killed Borja-Valle after the 69-year-old threatened to take his family away from him. In the video, he tells detectives he used rocks and his hands to kill Borja-Valle.
“On the stand, he said he made everything up, he was acting,” Lawson said, recalling to jurors Miranda-Garcia’s testimony last week.
She added that Miranda-Garcia had the means. There are phone records that show he was in contact with his brother, who the state thinks assisted in disposing of Borja-Valle and his truck.
“The defendant had the opportunity to kill Lolo,” Lawson said. “He knew his daily routine. In addition, he had the opportunity to clean up. They had opportunity to dump the body and the truck.”
Tower dumps on cellphone towers in Kealakekua and Ocean View were conducted as part of the investigation. As a result, it showed Miranda-Garcia and his brother were in the same place at the same time during the time frame that Borja-Valle was murdered.
Fujioka-Lilley opened her closing argument by stating Miranda-Garcia didn’t kill Borja-Valle. Evidence doesn’t show he took the body to Keopuka Mauka Road or dumped the truck in Ocean View.
“Police got turned around from the very beginning,” Fujioka-Lilley said in regard to the murder investigation. “Just because they say they have the right guy doesn’t make it so.”
Fujioka-Lilley told jurors her client didn’t have to testify to the court, but the Holualoa man took the stand last week during the course of two days to answer questions from the prosecution.
“He didn’t have to take a beating from the prosecutor, but Eber wanted to tell you what he was doing that night,” she said.
Fujioka-Lilley said Miranda-Garcia didn’t know the facts of the case when he was arrested in 2017. By confessing the way he did, it allowed for his wife to be released to be home with their daughter.
Fujioka-Lilley told the jury there are various reasons to doubt the government’s case against her client.
That includes detectives thinking the entire Miranda-Garcia family lied about brothers Himer and Marlon living in a room at Borja-Valle’s house and conducting a tower dump on only a Verizon cellphone tower. Officers’ suspicion of the family because of their phone records that night also resulted in the Miranda-Garcias becoming the prime and only suspects in the case, she said.
“Mistakes and misinformation led police to conclude that my client killed Lolo,” Fujioka-Lilley said.
She also pointed out to jurors that Borja-Valle had been in some kind of dispute in the parking lot at ChoiceMart in Captain Cook. However, no surveillance from nearby businesses was obtained. Detectives also didn’t get out and look at other coffee fields where Borja-Valle worked in the Captain Cook area.
Fujioka-Lilley also addressed the state’s DNA evidence.
“They were not looking for DNA evidence to who killed Lolo,” she said. “They already decided that.”
Fujioka-Lilley added there were other people’s DNA collected during the investigation, but it was never tested.
“That shows you they were out to get a conviction,” she stated. “The DNA evidence can’t prove who killed Lolo.”
The jury continues deliberations today.
Email Tiffany DeMasters at firstname.lastname@example.org.