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Jury returns guilty verdict in fatal hit-and-run

  • PAULICH

A 46-year-old South Kona woman faces up to 15 years behind bars after a jury found her guilty Wednesday of negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident involving death in connection with a July 2018 hit-and-run crash in South Kona that killed a 61-year-old visitor.

Paulette Paulich will be sentenced by Kona Circuit Judge Robert D.S. Kim on July 28 for the death of Mark Brown. She faces up to five years for second-degree negligent homicide and 10 years for leaving the scene of the accident.

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She had faced charges of first-degree negligent homicide for causing the death while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and failure to stop following an accident resulting in serious bodily injury or death to another person. The jury convicted her of the lesser-included offense of second-degree negligent homicide.

The charges stem from a July 16, 2018, two-vehicle crash near mile marker 88 on Highway 11 that killed Brown, a Nevada resident who was out for a motorcycle ride with his son.

Before the crash, Brown and his son were riding their motorcycles northbound on the highway after stopping at Manuka State Wayside Park in Ka‘u, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

The son was leading the ride and watching for his father to show up behind him. When Brown didn’t, the son pulled over and saw a vehicle pass that had sustained damage and was smoking. The son then turned around and found Brown on the side of the highway.

Police investigating the crash learned that a black 2009 Cadillac sedan had also been traveling northbound on the highway when it rear-ended Brown’s northbound Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The driver fled the scene.

The Cadillac was located abandoned approximately a half-mile north of the collision at the intersection of Highway 11 and Lani Kona Road. Officers also learned that a woman, later identified as Paulich, was observed walking away from the sedan. She was later located in her nearby home.

Damage to Paulich’s vehicle was so extensive that the front passenger wheel seized, according to the county Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. Despite the seized front wheel, Paulich continued to drive northbound until reaching the intersection of Lani Kona Road. As a result, Paulich’s vehicle left behind a tire mark that extended from the scene of the crash all the way to where her vehicle was left.

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Officers later contacted Paulich at home and she denied operating her vehicle. After months of investigation, evidence was discovered establishing Paulich as the driver of her black Cadillac CTS on July 16, 2018. Upon questioning then, she changed her story and admitted to being the driver of the Cadillac on the night in question, but denied colliding with Brown’s motorcycle.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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