Mother in Hilo child starvation case is free, pending sentencing

  • HENRIETTA STONE, KEVIN LEHANO, TIFFANY STONE

  • SHAELYNN LEHANO-STONE

CLARIFICATION 3/9/21, 3:35 p.m.: According to state Judiciary spokeswoman Jan Kagehiro, the delay in the pre-sentencing report in the Tiffany Stone’s was because “the state’s input … was late.”: “It was due in mid-January, but wasn’t submitted until March 4. This did not allow the court, and the defendant and her attorney, adequate time to review the state’s input before sentencing,” Kagehiro said in an email today.

A Hilo woman who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for her role in starving her 9-year-old daughter to death in 2016 was freed from custody without bail Monday, pending sentencing.

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Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto granted supervised release to 37-year-old Tiffany Stone, the mother of Shaelynn Lehano-Stone. Stone’s sentencing on the manslaughter charge — which carries a potential 20-year prison sentence upon conviction — was re-scheduled for 8:30 a.m. March 22.

There have been delays filing a pre-sentencing investigation report by the Probation Office because of the volume of documents to be reviewed. As of Monday, online court records don’t indicate the filing of the report, which isn’t a public document.

Deputy Prosecutor Suzanna Tiapula said the court-supervised release without bail was granted despite the objection of the state.

Stone, her 53-year-old husband, Kevin Lehano, and her 63-year-old mother, Henrietta Stone, were all indicted in July 2017 on a single count of second-degree murder for the June 28, 2016, death of the developmentally disabled girl.

Lehano and Henrietta Stone remain in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail each.

Lehano, who pleaded not guilty and was found fit to proceed for trial, has an April 9 court date before Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota for “further proceedings.”

Henrietta Stone, who also pleaded not guilty, is undergoing court-ordered mental examinations and has an April 30 court date before Nakamoto. Online records indicate that only one of the three examiners, Hilo psychologist Frederic Manke, has submitted a report in her case.

Paramedics responded to the apartment of Henrietta Stone, which was almost directly across the street from the Hilo Central Fire Station on Kinoole Street — at about 2 p.m. June 28, 2016. The response followed a 911 call by Lehano, according to a sentencing document filed Friday by Tiapula. Lehano-Stone, who was lifeless and without a pulse, was found prone on the floor of the apartment in a bed of urine-soaked newspapers, the document states.

She was pronounced dead at 4:23 p.m.

Henrietta Stone, the child’s legal guardian, had removed Lehano-Stone from her fourth-grade class at Hilo Union Elementary School in November 2015 and claimed to be home schooling the girl, documents state.

A search warrant on the apartment stated there were alarms on a large refrigerator-freezer and two smaller refrigerators in the apartment that would go off if the doors were opened. Journals and home calendars also had notations referring the girl as “painass” and “bitch,” according to the document.

According to the document, Shaelynn Lehano-Stone was born healthy in 2006, but immediately was placed in foster care “based on the fact that (her) older brother had been removed from (Tiffany Stone’s) care after he had been abused by” Stone.

The girl was returned to Stone on June 8, 2007, but removed Sept. 21, 2007. At that time, the document states, Stone told a social worker she was willing to give up the girl for adoption, complaining the child was difficult, crying all the time, wanting to be carried and not eating.

The social worker reported she picked up the girl, “who immediately ate.”

The child was returned to Stone the following month, but on Jan. 14, 2009, was placed in police custody and then admitted to foster care “due to failure to thrive and malnutrition.” She was again returned to Stone in August 2011, and was hospitalized in the fall that year for injuries.

A court granted custody of the girl to Henrietta Stone on Jan. 28, 2012, and ruled the child should remain with her grandmother, terminating Family Court jurisdiction on May 2, 2013.

“Significant child welfare services involvement continued … until (the girl’s) case was closed on Oct. 13, 2014,” according to the document.”

A minor brother of Lehano-Stone’s was interviewed June 31, 2016. The boy told authorities he rarely saw his sister eat, alarms were set to notify Henrietta Stone if the girl tried to get food and the other adults would text the girl’s grandmother if she tried to eat. The document states that, according to the boy, the others in the household were allowed to eat when they wanted.

The autopsy found the girl, at a height of 53 inches, weighed just 45 pounds, “which was lower than the recorded weight of 61 pounds only 11 months prior,” according to the document.

The document states the girl’s medical and child welfare records were reviewed by Dr. Carole Jenny, a nationally recognized expert on child abuse pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Jenny’s report, which is sealed but is summarized in Tiapula’s document, said Tiffany Stone was advised by social workers on numerous occasions to ensure the child was adequately fed and to not withhold food from her. It also reports Tiffany Stone claimed the girl’s “emotional and behavioral problems were the reason for the family’s denial of care …,” according to the document.

“Dr. Jenny noted that the emotional and physical abuse and neglect suffered by (the girl) were extraordinarily cruel,” the document states. “Dr. Jenny further opined that (the child’s) mental illness resulted from long-standing emotional neglect and abuse” and the family “never provided a stable environment where she could develop healthy relationships with other people.”

Tiapula is recommending the court sentence Tiffany Stone to the maximum of 20 years imprisonment, saying the girl “was abused, neglected and left to die by the defendant who should have protected her, cared for her and nurtured her.”

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Stone’s court-appointed attorney, Melody Parker, is free to argue for any legal sentence for her client, including probation.

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

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