Costa murder trial begins in Fifth Circuit Court

A jury trial is under way for the Kalaheo man accused of murdering a young Hanama’ulu woman last year.

Richard Shannon Costa was charged with stabbing to death Weslyn Rhonda Jerves on Jan. 13, 2005. The 18-year-old’s partially nude body was found in an unpaved parking lot at Glass Beach by Las Vegas visitors. 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.

On Wednesday, Kaua’i Police Department Detective Samuel Sheldon was on the witness stand in Fifth Circuit Judge Kathleen N.A. Watanabe’s courtroom. While he was on the stand, a tape recording of Costa’s Jan. 17, 2005, statement made to police was played.

On the tape, Costa said he picked up Jerves in Hanama’ulu and took her cruising. They ended up at the unpaved parking lot at the beach at about 2 in the morning on the day that Jerves’ body was found.

While in the parked car, Costa asked Jerves for the $20 that she owed him. According to Costa, she told him “You not going get your money back,” and she started swearing at him.

In response, Costa said he got out of the Toyota Corolla he was driving, walked over to the front passenger door, and told her to get out. He also said, “You know what, I going leave you here.”

According to Costa, he pulled Jerves out of the car, and he claimed that she had a knife in her left hand. He grabbed the knife, and said to her, “what, you going kill me.” He claimed that Jerves said, “yeah” in response.

Costa said there was a struggle, and he said that he “lost it a little.” During the struggle, he told her “I going jail because of you.”

He said that he put her into a headlock with his left hand, and held the knife in his right hand to her throat area.

He claimed that she moved, and that he “ended up poking her in the throat.”

Costa said that he dropped her to the ground. “That’s when I snapped out of it,” he said.

Costa said he threw away the knife, ran to the car, started it up and reversed. While backing up, he said “I felt like I ran over something.”

Detective Sheldon asked Costa on the tape if Jerves said anything or asked for help while she was on the ground. Costa said, “no, her throat was cut.”

Sheldon asked Costa if he made sexual advances to her while they were in the car. Costa said “no.”

A Honolulu Police Department forensic examiner of tire marks and footwear impressions took the stand.

Alan Kainuma testified that he took impressions of all four tires of Costa’s Toyota. He used the impression taken of the left front tire, and a picture taken of Jerves’ left thigh, to show the jury that tire marks on Jerves’ thigh matched.

KPD Detective Kaleo Perez testified that he was at Jerves’ autopsy. On the stand, he said that he saw seven wounds on Jerves’ back and three wounds on her neck. The detective also testified that he was involved in the search for what turned out to be a black-handled knife with a 5-inch blade. He said that the knife was found with the handle pointing up among rocks located below the parking-lot area.

The jury trial continues today with more prosecution witness testimony.

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