Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024|
Share this story
JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Aaron Wills, Patricia Wong's defense attorney, makes his closing argument to the jury Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court.
JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Deputy Prosecutor Annaliese Wolf makes her closing argument to the jury Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court.
JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Patricia Wong, accused of the 2009 murder of Kaycee Smith, listens to her attorney, Aaron Wills, make his closing argument to the jury Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court.
The murder trial of Patricia Wong, who is accused of shooting Kaycee Smith to death in 2009, is now in the hands of the jury.
Wong’s attorney, Aaron Wills, elected to not put Wong or any other witnesses on the stand after the prosecution rested its case Wednesday afternoon.
Closing arguments by both sides wrapped shortly before 4:30 p.m., and the predominately male jury was instructed by Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto to return to court at 9 a.m. today to begin deliberations.
The 61-year-old Wong is charged with second-degree murder, two counts of solicitation of second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and criminal conspiracy to commit second-degree murder.
Deputy Prosecutor Annaliese Wolf told the jury that Smith, a 21-year-old rodeo champion found shot to death June 30, 2009, in the Orchidland Drive home where she lived alone, trusted Wong — and that trust cost Smith her life.
“One thing alone may not lead you to the conclusion that Patricia Wong is guilty of all these offenses,” Wolf argued. “But piece after piece after piece of the evidence, considered in totality, shows that she is responsible for each and every one of these charges.”
Wolf said the state doesn’t have to prove a motive, and she noted that prosecution witnesses Peter Fuerte and Frank Costa had never met each other but told “remarkably similar stories” about Wong offering them money to kill Smith “within the same time frame.”
Wolf told the jury that Wong “wanted exclusive control” of a joint credit union account she and Smith — who Wong referred to as her “hanai daughter” — had opened and was largely funded by Smith, who had inheritance money from her late father’s life insurance.
“And you may think to yourself that $35,000 — the amount that was in that account the day Kaycee’s body was found — is not enough money to kill somebody over,” Wolf said. “But it’s not what you would do. What would Patricia do?”
Wills, as he had in his opening statement, deemed the defense’s evidence as circumstantial and “insufficient.”
“Insufficient to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the burden of the state,” Wills told the jury. “And after the state of Hawaii rested its case today, nothing has changed.”
Wills noted that Wong, who reported finding Smith’s slain body, “volunteered … to be questioned by police.”
“She wasn’t hiding. She participated willingly in the investigation,” Wills said. “She didn’t have to be chased down like Mr. Fuerte to talk to police about his involvement.”
Wills also argued that there was “no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing as it pertains to financial crimes.”
“My client hasn’t been charged or even accused of any financial wrongdoing, whatsoever,” he said. “And there’s no evidence of that other than a certain few in this case of what they thought they heard.”
Wills argued that Fuerte — a career criminal and co-defendant who agreed to testify against Wong as part of a plea deal with prosecutors — was lying.
“He couldn’t remember even the basic story he told police by the end of his testimony in court,” Wills said.
Wills also sought to impeach the credibility of Costa, a former boyfriend of Smith’s. Costa testified he had called Wong to borrow money, but Wong instead asked him to meet her at Mountain View Gym, where she offered him $10,000 and a .38 Special revolver to kill Smith.
“The main thing to remember is that in Frank Costa’s first interview (by police), he never brought up the issue of the gym visit. Never mentioned it,” Wills told the jury. “He admitted on cross (examination) that he gave an interview in 2019, and I asked him why it took so long to remember that this happened.
“He didn’t know.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *