State briefs for May 8

Wheels don’t fit tracks on beleaguered Oahu rail line

HONOLULU (AP) — The wheels don’t fit the tracks on Honolulu’s beleaguered commuter rail project.

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The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday that the wheels of the train cars are too narrow for some sections of track that have already been laid on Oahu, and replacing them would make the cars too heavy.

The wheels are about a half-inch too narrow to traverse the rail line’s “frogs,” where tracks cross, said Lori Kahikina, interim CEO and executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

“One solution that is being contemplated right now is maybe changing the wheels on all of the cars,” Kahikina said. “It’s a faster solution and a cheaper solution, but one drawback to changing the wheels is that you’re adding weight to the cars, and so they’re going to go over the threshold.”

Kahikina said other weight would have to be trimmed from the cars.

Replacing the tracks would hold up completion by at least a year on a project that has already been delayed several times and is massively over budget.

The project is now expected to cost $12.4 billion and won’t be completed until at least March 2031. Officials are facing a $3.6 billion shortfall.

Construction began about a decade ago when the 20-mile line was estimated to cost $5.1 billion.

The frogs have had other problems including subpar welding and sandblasting that created cracks.

Missing woman’s ex wants murder case dropped

WAILUKU, Maui (AP) — A man indicted for murder in the disappearance of his former Maui girlfriend is seeking to have the case dismissed.

Moreira “Mo” Monsalve, 46, was last seen in 2014 at ex-boyfriend Bernard Brown’s Wailuku apartment, about two weeks after she moved out. Those who knew the couple called it a volatile relationship.

In 2019, a Maui grand jury indicted Brown, who was brought back to the island from California to face a murder charge.

Brown, 49, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

His request to have the case dismissed alleges insufficient evidence, conflicts of interest and excessive use of hearsay in a grand jury proceeding.

“This is a no-body homicide case,” Deputy Prosecutor Robert Rivera said at a hearing on the defense request.

The testimony was necessary to establish Brown as being jealous and controlling and to show Monsalve’s close ties to family and friends, he said.

“That demonstrates that she had no motive to disappear, and if he hadn’t killed her, she would still be here today,” Rivera said.

In December, Judge Peter Cahill granted a defense motion and dismissed the case, but Brown was re-indicted about two weeks later.

Defense attorney Keith Shigetomi said the latest request needs to be granted because it raises the same issues that led to the first dismissal.

In seeking a new indictment, prosecutors “simply did the same thing” Shigetomi said.

He is asking for the dismissal to be with prejudice so Brown couldn’t be indicted again.

Cahill will continue Thursday’s hearing in June. He said he needed time to review the transcript of the first grand jury proceeding and compare it with the grand jury proceeding last year.

The conflicts of interest claims involve a grand juror who reported knowing Monsalve’s daughter and another juror whose stepsister is Rivera’s wife.

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Both grand jurors said they could be fair and impartial when evaluating the evidence, Rivera said.

“Remarkably, we do have grand jurors who know people in the case,” Cahill said. “Maybe it’s happening with more frequency than one might think.”

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