Kekaha kidnapping trial begins in Lihu’e

LIHU’E – Testimony from the state’s star witness opened the first day trial of Edwina Nakaula and Robert Neil Hansen, both charged with kidnapping and sexual assault.

Nakaula was 18, Hansen was 20, and the alleged victim was 16 at the time of the incident, which testimony said took place in a Kekaha apartment on Sept. 10, 2000.

The female victim was living in a nearby apartment with her grandmother at the time of the incident.

“Kaua’i is still a relatively safe place, but big-city crime has come to the Westside, it has come to Kekaha,” Russell Goo, deputy prosecutor, told jurors in Fifth Circuit Court, Judge Clifford L. Nakea presiding.

A seven-man, five-woman jury is seated at the trial, which began Monday.

Dual defense counsel Warren Perry (Hansen) and Edmund Acoba (Nakaula) both told jurors that the alleged rape was not forced; it was consensual.

Perry said that something of a sexual nature occurred in Nakaula and Hansen’s apartment, and that he’d prove the girl agreed to have sex with Hansen for a carton of cigarettes they bought her the following Saturday.

“This is nothing more than sex for cigarettes,” Acoba told jurors, “[She] was not proud of her decision, and perhaps the only way to rationalize her decision was to call it rape,” he said.

The state’s first witness, Kaua’i Police Department Youth Services Division Detective Sgt. Eric Shibuya, testified that he conducted “walk-in” interviews with the alleged victim and her grandmother at the police station in Lihu’e on Jan. 24, 2001 – the day the girl reported the sexual assault.

Shibuya said that following the interviews, he didn’t send detectives or personally investigate the scene of the reported crime; nor did he sketch the scene. Shibuya said he did not get a search warrant to find evidence that might have cleared the defendants or interview witnesses that could support the girl’s story.

He testified that another KPD officer was normally assigned to the Kekaha area, where the girl was living, but Shibuya completed the interviews because he was in the station.

The state’s star witness and alleged victim testified that she and Nakaula became friends after she and her grandmother moved into the apartment complex. She and Nakaula used to “talk story” many times a week and visit each other’s apartments.

The girl testified to baby-sitting Nakaula’s two young children (Hansen was not the father). However, they were acquaintances, “hi-bye” friends, at Waimea High School where they both attended, though Nakaula was two years older.

Under Goo’s questioning, the girl related that on the night of Sunday, Sept. 10, 2000, she was sexually assaulted by Nakaula and Hansen in the couple’s apartment.

On the Friday and Saturday prior to the alleged incident, she said Nakaula asked her to have sex with her boyfriend. Nakaula allegedly offered her a carton of cigarettes as payment; the girl said she refused Nakaula’s requests. However, she still agreed to baby-sit their kids that Sunday so the couple could spend time together.

The girl testified that upon arriving at the apartment at about 7 p.m., Hansen and Nakaula weren’t getting ready to go out and the kids were already sleeping.

The three sat down to watch TV and talk story for about 10-15 minutes when Hansen, who was sitting on a couch next to her chair, made a sexual advance to her.

She said she didn’t like that and told him to stop but he would not; so she scooted her chair toward the corner of the room. Hansen came at her from behind and accosted her.

According to the girl’s testimony, Hansen stopped for a short while after asking Nakaula: “I thought you said she said ‘yeah’?”

She told Warren Perry, Hansen’s defense attorney, that she didn’t know why she didn’t leave the apartment immediately if she was uncomfortable.

Hansen locked the front door; Nakaula repeated that she thought they had struck a deal; and the 210-pound Hansen pulled the girl, about 5’5″ and 150 pounds, by the wrist into the bedroom, where Nakaula, a slightly smaller woman than her, shoved her face-down onto their mattress.

Nakaula held the girl’s hands down while Hansen pulled off her shorts and underwear.

She testified that during the incident, she didn’t shout for help because Nakaula threatened her with violence if she said anything.

She testified that she was able to escape because of her constant struggling against them. Once free she got up and put on her clothes and went home.

Under cross-examination from Perry, she said she got a ride with Hansen to school the following morning (Monday, Sept. 11, 2000) and he gave her a wad of cash, which she returned to their apartment after school.

The girl said she told just one person about what had happened to her. She didn’t tell her grandmother about it because she was afraid that Nakaula would somehow hurt the woman. But she testified that on Jan. 23 a good friend convinced her to tell her grandmother about what happened; they went to the police station the next day.

Perry and Acoba will continue the cross-examination of the alleged victim and other witnesses for the state this morning in Fifth Circuit Court.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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