Father pleads no contest to manslaughter in child starvation case

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Kevin Lehano appears in Hilo Circuit Court Wednesday with his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sherilyn Tavares, while Deputy Prosecutor Haaheo Kahoohalahala appears at the hearing via videoconference.

  • SHAELYNN LEHANO-STONE

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Kevin Lehano appears in Hilo Circuit Court Wednesday with his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sherilyn Tavares.

The second of three family members accused of starving a 9-year-old girl to death in 2016 pleaded no contest to a reduced charge.

In a deal with prosecutors, 53-year-old Kevin Lehano of Hilo pleaded no contest Wednesday to manslaughter, a charge reduced from second-degree murder. Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota set sentencing for 1:30 p.m. June 29.

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Lehano, his 37-year-old wife, Tiffany Stone, and her mother, 63-year-old Henrietta Stone, were indicted in July 2017 on second-degree murder charges for the June 28, 2016, starvation death of Shaelynn Lehano-Stone. The victim was Lehano’s and Tiffany Stone’s daughter, and Henrietta Stone’s granddaughter.

Fire medical personnel responded to Henrietta Stone’s Kinoole Street apartment that afternoon after Lehano called 911. First responders found the unresponsive body of the malnourished girl on the floor of the apartment, which is almost directly across the street from the Central Fire Station in Hilo.

The child reportedly was autistic and had been pulled out of Hilo Union Elementary School in October 2015 by Henrietta Stone, the girl’s legal guardian, to be home-schooled.

The manslaughter charge carries a potential prison sentence of 20 years.

Deputy Public Defender Sherilyn Tavares told the court that Lehano will seek probation.

“Should the court grant his request for probation, he has effectively served twice the maximum amount of incarceration” allowed in a probation sentence, she said.

Lehano, who has been incarcerated at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $100,000 bail since his arrest almost four years ago, wore his hair in a ponytail almost to his waist Wednesday, a stark contrast to the short, spiky hairstyle in his arrest mugshot. He replied to standard questions from Kubota briefly and courteously.

Tavares asked the judge to free Lehano on court-supervised release without monetary bail pending his sentencing, saying Lehano otherwise “may not be able to adequately participate” in a pre-sentence report ordered by the court.

“I had extreme difficulty with HCCC providing me adequate time to meet with Mr. Lehano. Numerous appointments had to be canceled, based on things like no adequate space to meet because of construction that is happening at the facility, and different portions of (the jail) on lockdown and quarantine due to COVID restrictions,” Tavares said. “… Mr. Lehano is not a flight risk. He’s a lifelong resident of Hawaii Island. He can reside with his mother.”

She added that court-supervised release status would provide Lehano “an opportunity to demonstrate to the court that he is appropriate for probation and does not pose a danger to the community.”

Deputy Prosecutor Haaheo Kahoohalahala “adamantly” objected to Lehano being released without posting bail.

“I think it’s a little premature and presumptuous for the defense to ask the court for supervised release before the defendant has even been sentenced,” Kahoohalahala argued. She added that if there is “any problem with Mr. Lehano participating in a pre-sentencing report,” a motion can be filed and a conference held.

Tiffany Stone was sentenced by Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto to 10 years probation on March 22 after pleading no contest to a reduced charge of manslaughter in her daughter’s death. Stone, who was granted supervised release prior to sentencing after her plea in December, sat in the back row of the courtroom gallery Wednesday.

The Tribune-Herald sought a comment from Stone following Wednesday’s hearing, but her attorney, Melody Parker, intervened and prevented the newspaper from interviewing her.

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Henrietta Stone pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and has a hearing scheduled for Friday on a court-ordered mental examination. She remains in HCCC in lieu of $100,000 bail.

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

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