Court appearance delayed for alleged kidnapper

  • Lawrence Kekoa Botelho

A Puna man charged with kidnapping and armed robbery had his preliminary court appearance postponed until he can appear in person next week.

Lawrence Kekoa Botelho, 33, of Pahoa was charged last weekend with first-degree robbery, first-degree terroristic threatening, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, kidnapping, and third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug after he allegedly stole a vehicle while hitchhiking from Hawaiian Paradise Park.

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According to a police report, a 34-year-old man picked up Botelho who was hitchhiking in HPP late Wednesday, Oct. 20. After driving to Hilo, the victim entered a fast-food drive-thru at the Puainako Town Center, whereupon Botelho began yelling at the victim and threatening to kill him.

Upon seeing that Botelho had a pistol and two knives in his hands, the victim fled the vehicle. Botelho then allegedly drove off with the vehicle, which was subsequently located in Panaewa on Thursday, Oct. 21.

Botelho himself was apprehended in an Orchidland convenience store on Friday, Oct. 22.

Botelho’s preliminary hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 27. However, because of COVID-19 protocols, he was quarantined at the Hawaii County Community Correctional Center during the scheduled hearing and was unable to appear in person.

Although Botelho was present at the hearing via Zoom, his court-appointed attorney Jennifer Wharton said she did not approve of holding the preliminary hearing by video, as it was impossible for her to meet confidentially with her client.

Because of this, Wharton called for the matter to be continued next week, but also objected to Botelho being held in custody for the duration of the week, filing an oral motion for Botelho’s release. Judge Jeffrey Hawk denied that motion, and Botelho remains in custody pending a $130,000 bail.

Botelho’s preliminary hearing will instead take place Nov. 3, when he will presumably appear in person. Also in appearance will be seven police officers, who were all named as state’s witnesses by Deputy Prosecutor Roland Kaholo-Talon.

Botelho’s robbery and kidnapping charges both carry a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison. As a repeat offender — Botelho was convicted of armed robbery last year after luring a Canadian couple to a Puna home and robbing them at knifepoint — Botelho faces a mandatory prison term if convicted of any of the non-drug-related felonies.

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In addition to the robbery incidents on the island, Botelho was convicted of an unspecified felony in 2009 and was charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in 2014, with both incidents happening in San Antonio, Texas.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune- herald.com.