Documents: Murder suspect believed victim to be a ‘war criminal’

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Michael Cecil Lee, right, turns to Deputy Public Defender Justin Lee -- who's not related to the defendant -- this afternoon in Hilo District Court.

A 55-year-old homeless Puna man accused of the Dec. 4 beating death of Shingo Honda told police “God” killed the internationally acclaimed artist, according to a court document filed by police.

The document states Michael Cecil Lee, who is charged with second-degree murder, was advised of his rights Saturday evening and admitted his role in the slaying, but told detectives “God” killed the 75-year-old Honda and Lee only “layed the body down.”

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Lee believed Honda was “a war criminal” and “deserved it,” according to the document. Lee reportedly told detectives Shingo kept getting back up and he kept knocking him down. The document states Lee admitted to kicking and striking Honda until he stopped breathing.

An autopsy found that Honda died of multiple blunt-force trauma injures to his head and body and there were also visible signs of strangulation.

Honda’s body was found Dec. 4 on the shoulder of Unehe Road, several hundred yards from the Glenwood home Honda shared with his life partner of three decades, author Lynne Farr.

Farr reported Honda missing shortly before police found his body, after she and neighbors searched the neighborhood. Neighbors who helped Farr canvass the area said they made contact with Lee, who told them he hadn’t seen Honda.

According to another document, Farr told police that Honda — who was a Zen priest in addition to being an artist — said he was trying to befriend Lee and made multiple visits to him.

Lee was apprehended Saturday morning at the annual Pahoa holiday parade. As he was being arrested, he shouted, “Yeah, I’m wanted for murder. I killed that dude two days ago. And I left all the evidence for you guys,” documents state.

During Lee’s initial court appearance today, Deputy Prosecutor Herbert Mukai mispronounced Lee’s middle name while reading the charging document. After Lee heard the his middle name pronounced in the British fashion, with a short “e,” he shouted, “Cee-cil! Cee-cil!”

According to the complaint, Lee is subject to extended terms of imprisonment “for the protection of the public” and because Honda, who is older than 60, is legally considered “elderly.”

Second-degree murder usually carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole upon conviction, but a conviction for second-degree murder with extended terms could subject Lee to a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Lee, who spoke loudly and quickly in a staccato delivery in court told Hilo District Judge Kimberly Taniyama he understood the charge.

The judge told Lee he had the right to remain silent and to not speak to anyone except his attorney about the alleged incident.

Asked if he understood, Lee replied, “No I don’t, because the night before last two officers sat with me … .”

“OK, Mr. Lee, I’m going to stop you right there,” Taniyama interjected.

“… And spoke in depth with me,” Lee continued as Taniyama tried to interject again.

“They violated my rights,” Lee asserted.

When advised again to not talk about the case except to his attorney, Lee said, “Too late. I talked to two police officers two nights ago. In depth.”

Taniyama set a preliminary hearing for 2 p.m. Wednesday.

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Lee remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $250,000 bail.

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

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