LIHU’E — A Kalaheo man accused of murdering a young woman almost a year ago will be getting a new attorney.
Richard Shannon Costa was charged with stabbing to death Weslyn Rhonda Jerves in January last year. The 18-year-old’s partially nude body was found in an un-paved parking lot at Glass Beach. An autopsy determined that Jerves died from multiple stab wounds to the neck, chest, back, abdomen and right arm.
Costa, 37, faces one count of second-degree murder. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole if the court finds that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.
Costa’s attorney William Feldhacker went before Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe yesterday to withdraw as Costa’s attorney — the same day that Costa’s jury trial was scheduled to begin.
Feldhacker pointed out that he could not go into the details about why he wanted to withdraw from the case due to attorney-client privilege. However, he indicated that the professional relationship between himself and Costa was not repairable.
Judge Watanabe asked Costa if the situation had deteriorated, and Costa said “Yes.”
The judge then appointed William Perry to be Costa’s new attorney. Additionally, she reset Costa’s jury trial for April 17.
According to court records, Feldhacker filed a motion to withdraw on Dec. 15 due to differences that came up between himself and Costa.
According to court records, Feldhacker wrote that he had met with Costa on Dec. 7 at the Kaua’i Community Correctional Center. However, between Dec. 7 and Dec. 15, Feldhacker wrote, Costa’s confidence in him had deteriorated greatly through correspondence.
Feldhacker wrote that he has been practicing law for 34 years. “It is apparent that should I continue to represent defendant it will result in allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and bar complaints,” he wrote.
In other court action since Costa was charged with murdering Jerves, in August, Fifth Circuit Court Chief Judge George Masuoka ruled that Costa is competent to stand trial and that he is able to assist in his own defense.
In March, court records show that Feldhacker filed a motion to have Costa mentally examined by three doctors. According to court papers, Feldhacker wrote that Costa could not recall stabbing Jerves multiple times and that the only thing that Costa could recall was defending himself after Jerves threatened to kill him.
Feldhacker wrote that Costa had a “blackout” and that it was not a result of drinking or drugs.
In other court action in August, Feldhacker filed a motion to hire a private investigator. Feldhacker wrote that the private investigator would look into Jerves’ background to support Costa’s claim of self defense as a reason for his actions.
The investigator would locate and interview witnesses who may be called to trial, wrote Feldhacker.
A hearing on the private investigator motion was held in August before Judge Masuoka. According to court records, the motion would be granted, provided Feldhacker name the investigator, what the investigator’s hourly rate would be, and how much time the investigator intends to spend on the case.
According to court records, Jerves’ body was found at about 8:05 a.m. on Jan. 13 of last year by two visitors from Las Vegas.
According to court records, Costa was questioned by KPD officers working on the case. On Jan. 16 last year, Costa waived his rights and made a statement.
In his statement, Costa told detectives that he had known Jerves for about six weeks. On the night of Jan. 12, Costa said, he picked up Jerves, who was walking down Hanama’ulu Road. He said that Jerves wanted to go cruising with him.
Costa told the detectives that he headed to Glass Beach, where they arrived at about 2 a.m. An argument ensued over an amount of money which was followed by a struggle as Costa attempted to force Jerves out of the car after she reportedly kicked him.
Costa claims Jerves had a knife and intended to kill him. According to court records, Costa claims he gained control of the knife and had Jerves in a headlock with the knife against her throat when she moved causing the fatal wound.
He then told detectives he had tried to make it look like she had been sexually assaulted and that the entire incident lasted between 15 and 20 minutes.
Based on his statement, Costa was arrested and bail was set at $100,000.
Court records show that Jerves had defensive wounds on the second joints of the fingers on her left hand.
Costa is being held at KCCC in Wailua.
- Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 256) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco. com.