Reaction to woman set afire grows, protest held

LIHU’E – Kaua’i women are registering mixed reaction to reports that an

Ele’ele grandfather set his wife on fire while their grandchild

watched.

“He should burn like he burned her,” said one Kaua’i

woman.

“He acted like an animal,” said another Kaua’i woman. “Even though

there is no death penalty, he should get the stiffest sentence possible for

what he did to her.”

Some women chose to make a public display of their ire

by organizing a protest in front of the Lihu’e Courthouse this morning prior to

Gregory Aguiar’s preliminary hearing.

Aguiar, 49, has been charged with

attempted murder for allegedly pouring lighter fluid on his wife and setting

her afire in the presence of their three-year-old granddaughter.

Miu Lan

Esposo-Aguiar, 39, is in the intensive care unit of Straub Hospital with second

and third-degree burns over 76 percent of her body.

The group staged the

protest not so much to condemn Aguiar but to raise awareness about the need for

a shelter for abused women, children and men, said organizer Joan

Aanavi.

“The main point we want to make is that there is no shelter for

women and children until they get beaten up,” she said.

She said she was

beaten by a Kaua’i man and that she could have avoided that situation if she

had a place to go before it happened.

“He tried to kill me. I had 10

stitches in the head,” Aanavi said. “One time is more than enough. I am not

protesting just for myself. I am protesting for all women who have been

abused.”

Nancy Peterson, program director for the YWCA Family Violence

Shelter in Lihu’e, said the facility will accept women and their children who

are at risk of being abused and those who have been abused.

Peterson said

her primary concern is to show support for Mrs. Aguiar.

“I think we need to

focus our energy on how we can support this woman and the rest of the women in

our community (who have been abused),” Peterson said.

A Princeville woman

said the attack against Mrs. Aguiar should serve as an eye-opener. “I think

that most women don’t think that their mates could possibly do something like

this to them,” she said. “If it happened to her, it could happen to anyone. It

is spooky.”

Mrs. Aguiar’s three-year-old granddaughter told police

investigators she saw the couple arguing and that her grandfather poured liquid

from a container on her grandmother’s head and set her on fire with a

lighter.

Kaua’i Police Lt. Bill Ching dismissed news accounts that Aguiar

had poured flammable liquid in a balloon, tossed it on his wife and ignited the

fluid after the balloon broke on her.

Kaua’i police investigators found no

signs of any balloon remnants and confiscated a lighter, a few matches and a

container of lighter fluid.

Neighbors said they heard Mrs. Aguiar scream

about 11 a.m., saw her run out of her home on 4554 Pualei Street in a ball of

fire, run across the street to another home where she hosed herself off with

water.

Aguiar surrendered to police about two miles from his home and

more than two hours later at the Kauai Coffee Co. office in Numila, where he is

an employee. A co-worker convinced Aguiar to surrender, according to

Ching.

Yesterday, Ching declined to comment on reports Aguiar confessed to

committing the crime. “I can’t say yes or no,” he said.

Ching said the

victim and the suspect had argued over Mrs. Aguiar seeing another man and that

the suspect was upset about Mrs. Aguiar spending too much time at her job at

Home Infusion in Lihu’e.

The company provides care for individual who are

homebound and require medical care.

In addition to the attempted murder

charge, Aguiar has been charged with reckless endangering in the first

degree.

He has been held on $100,000 bail in the Kaua’i Community

Correctional Center.

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