Sentencing is coming up for a Kona man who pleaded no contest earlier this year to first-degree negligent homicide stemming from a 2018 crash that killed a 41-year-old mother of two.
Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin H. Fujino is slated to sentence Austin Ronald Kembel on June 24 after the man pleaded no contest to first-degree negligent homicide on Jan. 15. In exchange for his plea to the Class B felony, prosecutors dropped charges of manslaughter and second-degree negligent injury.
He faces up to 10 years incarceration and a fine of up to $25,000 though the plea agreement indicates he could also be sentenced to 18 months jail with probation.
Neither the defense nor the state can request to sentence Kembel as a young adult defendant, per the agreement. However, the state will seek restitution for a man injured in the crash that killed Holualoa resident Trina Walker.
Kembel was indicted in August 2019 in connection with the March 12, 2018, crash near mile marker 83, in the vicinity of the Kiholo Bay Scenic Lookout on Queen Kaahumanu Highway in North Kona.
Walker was on her way home from the Mauna Lani where she was employed at Ruth’s Chris Steak House when the collision involving three cars occurred shortly after 10:30 p.m.
According to police, Kembel headed southbound on the highway when he was involved in a rear-end collision with Walker, who was also traveling southbound. The collision caused Walker’s sedan to spin and crossover into the northbound lane of the highway, where it was rear-ended by a northbound vehicle driven by a Waimea man.
Walker was taken to the Kona Community Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 2:57 a.m. March 13, 2018. Both men were also hospitalized following the wreck.
As sentencing nears for Kembel, activity has also been taking place in other criminal cases amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted court operations, including continuations of jury trials until after June 30. The following is a list of select cases of interest to West Hawaii readers.
• James H. Bonham, the 66-year-old Captain Cook man accused of fatally shooting his 45-year old son Joshua at his Middle Keei Road in May, is awaiting a preliminary hearing set for June 30. Bonham is charged with second-degree murder and has been granted supervised release.
• Chad Barry Barnes, who is accused of stabbing a 25-year-old man Feb. 29 at Chillin’ on the Bay on Alii Drive is awaiting a mental fitness hearing with a return on doctors’ reports is set for June 12. He is charged with attempted second-degree murder, second-degree assault and second-degree terroristic threatening.
• Ikhyun Chang, a 61-year-old Kona man accused of stabbing his wife in the throat with a carpet knife on May 30 is set to enter a plea to charges of attempted second-degree murder, first-degree terroristic threatening and felony abuse of a family or household member on Tuesday. Chang remains in custody in lieu of $54,000 bail.
• Chasity Alcosiba-McKenzie, who is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the July 25, 2017, death of Fabian Garett-Garcia, was expected to stand trial May 21 but proceedings were continued due to COVID-19 to Sept. 1. She remains free on $10,000 bail.
• Justin T. Mariano, who is charged with four counts first-degree sexual assault, continuous sexual assault of a minor under 14, third-degree sexual assault on for alleged incidents that took place on the Konawaena High School campus, remains hospitalized at the Hawaii State Hospital on Oahu. He was found unfit in March but has since stabilized. Another review hearing is set for July 2.
• Shannon Ke, who allegedly assaulted Officer Randall Hancock on the shoreline fronting Huggo’s On The Rocks in March 19, is set to stand trial Aug. 25. He is charged with first-degree attempted murder with the enhancement of a hate crime, disorderly conduct, first-degree assault, two counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. Ke remains in custody on $100,000 bail.
• Zeth Browder, 19, remains in custody in lieu of $166,000 pending jury trial set for Sept. 1. He is charged with two counts each first-degree sexual assault and third-degree sexual assault and one count each first-degree burglary, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. He is accused of sexually assaulting a septuagenarian last summer at a Kawaihae campground.
• Jury trial is now set for Sept. 22 for Ashley and Kuuipo Nihipali, a Puna couple accused of murder in the Halloween 2018 death of a 6-year-old boy at a Kealakehe apartment complex.
Kuuipo Nihipali is charged with one count second-degree murder; one count second-degree murder as principal and/or accomplice; six counts second-degree felony abuse of a family or household member as principal and/or accomplice; first-degree hindering prosecution as principal and/or accomplice; tampering with evidence as principal and/or accomplice; and two counts first-degree terroristic threatening as principal and/or accomplice. She is being held at HCCC in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Ashley Nihipali is charged with one count second-degree murder as principal and/or accomplice; six counts second-degree felony abuse of a family or household member as principal and/or accomplice; first-degree hindering prosecution as principal and/or accomplice; tampering with evidence as principal and/or accomplice; and two counts first-degree terroristic threatening as principal and/or accomplice. She is being held on $1 million bail.
• Taumi Carr, one of seven accused of aiding accused cop-killer Justin Waiki following the fatal shooting of Hawaii Police Department officer Bronson Kaliloa in July 2018, is slated to stand trial in November. She is charged with two counts first-degree hindering prosecution and remains free on $25,000 bail.
• Joshua D. Hams, who is accused of an islandwide crime spree in August 2019 that resulted in 43 counts, including firearms, property damage, drug and robbery offenses, is also awaiting trail, though a date has not been set. He remains in custody in lieu of $1 million.
• Richard D. Gorloff, who faces three counts of first-degree terroristic threatening and one count each of second-degree terroristic threatening and violation of an order for protection in connection with an alleged incident on Oct. 10, 2019 that resulted in a six-hour standoff with police, has been deemed to unfit stand trial. He remains committed to the Hawaii State Hospital and a contested hearing on a three doctor report is scheduled for July 23.
• Former Hawaii Police Department officer Brian Miller is charged with fourth-degree theft, obstructing government operations, three counts tampering with physical evidence, second-degree theft, first-degree promoting a dangerous drug, second-degree hindering prosecution, two counts criminal conspiracy, connection with the gambling raid, as well as unrelated felony charges in connection with the alleged theft of cocaine from a police evidence locker in May 2016.
On May 29, Hilo Circuit Court Judge Kubuota was recused from hearing the case. No new judge has yet been assigned to the proceedings. A hearing on motion to dismiss indictment is set for June 15.
• Jesse Speetjens, who is charged with second-degree negligent homicide for the New Year’s day crash that claimed the life of jogger Sylvia Elizabeth Ravaglia in Waimea, is awaiting a new trial date after a continuance was granted due to COVID-19. He has been released on his own recognizance.
• Walter Gomes III pleaded no contest April 3 to second-degree assault and two counts first-degree resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle in connection to a March 2019 shooting incident that seriously injured one and triggered an 11-day manhunt. Sentencing is set for July 6. He remains in custody in lieu of $193,250 bail.
• A man charged with unauthorized control of propelled vehicle and first-degree theft after being accused of commandeering without permission a 50-foot sailing catamaran from Kailua Bay in early May is awaiting results of a mental examination. Justin Fujioka remains in custody on $1,000 bail with a status hearing set for Wednesday.
• Trial is set for July 21 for Brenda Olione, a 32-year-old woman charged with two counts of first-degree sex assault of a minor less than 14 years old for allegedly engaging in sexual penetration with a minor between 2008 and 2010. She remains free in lieu of $2,000 bail.
• Four Ka‘u residents charged in May for allegedly printing and cashing checks are scheduled to stand trial in August. Ryan Terkelsen and Renee Aigamaua’s jury tial date is set for Aug. 25 while Jeremy Jensen and Amber Haopili have an Aug. 18 trial date.
Terkelsen is charged with criminal possession of forgery device, ownership or possession prohibited, four counts unauthorized possession of confidential personal information, two counts first-degree forgery, first-degree theft of a firearm, fourth-degree theft and storage of firearms with respect to minors. He remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correction Center (HCCC) with bail set at $350,000.
Aigamaua is charged with criminal possession of forgery device, ownership or possession prohibited, three counts unauthorized possession of confidential personal information, two counts first-degree forgery, fourth-degree theft, criminal conspiracy and storage of firearms with respect to minors. She remains at HCCC on $50,000 bail.
Jensen is charged with criminal possession of forgery devise, ownership prohibited, two counts first-degree forgery, storage of firearms with respect to minors and is being held on $145,000 bail.
Haopili is charged with criminal possession of forgery devise, first-degree forgery, criminal conspiracy and storage of firearms with respect to minors. She was granted supervised release.