Fire, flood ignites tensions between Pila‘a neighbors

Amid the startling beauty of Pila‘a Bay lies a two year-old conflict, with allegations of threats, arson, and deceit between neighbors, some of whom have been friends for 30 years.

Now, the battleground has moved to the courts, as Pila‘a resident Rick Marvin went to court Wednesday to put a new restraining order against long-time friend, Joe O’Hagan, also known as “Clipper Joe,” who is contesting the case. While at the Hanalei Courthouse, on a break from the civil trial, Rick Marvin was served with a harassment complaint and a temporary restraining order from Gordon Wilson, the caretaker of the Huddy estate at Pila‘a, the Marvin’s neighbor, and a witness for the defense in O’Hagan’s civil trial.

Marvin alleges in his complaint that O’Hagan has threatened his family with physical harm on numerous occasions, and left a fire in April that threatened the houses at Pila‘a Beach owned by him and his brother, Nick Marvin. Meanwhile, Wilson alleges that Rick Marvin has slandered his name in public and threatened him with physical harm on numerous occasions.

While the Marvin family say they are “shell-shocked” and afraid for their lives, according to their attorney, Teresa Tico, O’Hagan says he’s dumbfounded that a former friend and neighbor would treat him this way. Wilson says he filed the complaint because he was tired of the abuse inflicted by the Marvins, while the Marvins say they have no problem with Wilson, and that his complaints are baseless.

All three live within a quarter mile of each other in the makai section of Pila‘a, a somewhat isolated valley south of Kilauea.

“The situation is very volatile and could very well explode” with violence, said Tico in a phone interview after the court session.

The problems started after November 26, 2001, when heavy rains caused mud from Pila‘a landholder James Pflueger’s property to run into the ocean. State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials found that un-permitted grading and grubbing on Pflueger’s land caused damage to the reef. Pflueger pleaded no contest to three criminal counts of violating the county’s zoning ordinance for un-permitted work on his properties in Kilauea in 2001 and 2002. The Marvin’s’ have a pending lawsuit against Pflueger to recoup expenses to pay for damages to their home and property from the mudslide, said Marvin.

“We’re on edge,” said Amy Marvin, Rick’s wife, in an interview at their house. “What they destroyed here is the tranquility.”

But Wilson says he is there to take in some of that tranquility, and Rick Marvin has destroyed it.

“I am a quiet, clean living man on a spiritual path. My only agenda is that I am a helpful, loving human being” trying to help a Hawaiian family to restore their home, Wilson said in an interview at his home last week, and in a letter to the Marvin family as well. “I see myself as a perfect neighbor.”

But the Marvin’s contend that Wilson was put there to harass them, as evidenced by his complaint. “Gordy’s claim is a crock. It’s a fabrication. I have never threatened him verbally or otherwise,” said Rick.

Heidi Yamamoto, the owner of the Huddy Estate, said Wilson is there to fix up her home. It has been infested with termites, needs a new roof, and Wilson is building a lanai.

“Gordon is a very upstanding person,” said Yamamoto. The Marvin’s “have taken it to a new level. My father taught me to care and share and [the Marvin’s] are not sharing.”

Wilson even supports the Marvin’s right to sue Pflueger. “They got a good reason to be [angry]. But they went way overboard.”

On the other hand, Joe O’Hagan, on whom Rick Marvin has a restraining order and has charged with assault and terroristic threatening, said that he is the Huddy’s gardener and was the one who told Yamamoto about Wilson. He also lives on Pflueger’s land with his permission, O’Hagan said.

O’Hagan’s criminal charges stem from an incident at the Pinetrees Classic longboard contest held on April 28 at Hanalei Bay. Marvin testified in Wednesday’s restraining order hearing that O’Hagan pushed him, threatened him with a sexual act, and kicked him.

“He told me, ‘if this goes to trial, you’ll never leave the island,'” testified Marvin, later explaining that he believed O’Hagan was referring to his civil trial with Pflueger.

O’Hagan said in an interview that it was Marvin who insulted him, and called him a sexual act in front of his friends. O’Hagan said he then took Marvin aside and attempted to talk to him without further incident. The trial was delayed before O’Hagan could testify on Wednesday.

In the interview at his home on Tuesday, O’Hagan said that the allegations are baseless, and that he believes the Marvin’s are using the charges to strengthen their case against Pflueger. “Rick’s been my friend for 33 years and now this. It’s all for money,” he said.

After a first temporary restraining order Marvin brought against O’Hagan landed the two men in mediation, an August 18 brush fire caused the tension to flare up again.

According to Wilson’s testimony, O’Hagan was burning palm fronds and rotted wood from the Huddy house on the Huddy property that Monday morning, as he usually did. As the fire was dying, Wilson asked O’Hagan to leave, as he was expecting a conference call.

“We both knew the fire was going out,” and O’Hagan asked him “to keep an eye on it,” Wilson testified.

Over a half-hour later, in the middle of his conference call, he was alerted to a fire near the rubbish pile in a pile of hau bush, Wilson testified. When he saw the fire, he got off the call and called “everyone who could help.”

To put the fire out, the Kaua‘i Fire Department had to pump water in from the ocean, Wilson said.

The Marvin’s contend that O’Hagan deliberately left the fire burning so that the fire would spread to Nick Marvin’s house and destroy their property.

“He left it unattended illegally,” Rick testified. My wife “was shooting the spring water hose at propane tanks. The kids were terrified. They were scared mom was going to blow up,” he added. After court, in an interview, he said, “I do believe that he tried to burn our house down.”

O’Hagan swears the fire was an accident. “It was a mistake. It was just a spark that spread,” he said. He added that the propane tank was rubbish left over from a previous tenant at the Huddy Estate.

Which way the wind was blowing was one of the biggest discrepancies in the testimony from Wilson, Marvin, and another defendant witness, Gordon Rosa, property manager of Pflueger 400 LLC, formerly Pflueger Properties. While Rosa testified the wind was blowing at 20 to 25 miles per hour off the ocean, Marvin said the wind was blowing trades, towards his home and his brother’s residence. Wilson testified that the winds were light and variable in the morning, but ocean breezes had picked up in the afternoon, but he could not say at what rate.

Tico contends that the trade winds blowing heavily towards the Marvin’s property shows the malice that O’Hagan intended when he set the fire. The fire was put out without spreading to the Marvin property.

Arraignment for O’Hagan and the continuation of the restraining order contestation hearing is scheduled to take place on November 12.

O’Hagan still must abide by a second temporary restraining order, which prohibits him from calling, harassing, or threatening Marvin. He also cannot go onto the Marvins’ property or into his place of business.

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