Sister: Klein an addict, not a killer
LIHU‘E — As police continue to seek the man accused of nearly killing a hiker by shoving her off a Kalalau Trail cliff, a sibling says her brother is not a monster and fears for his life.
Justin Wynn Klein, 37, of Kilauea, remains at large after a 5th Circuit Court grand jury indicted the Oregon native of attempted murder on Dec. 27. He is accused of throwing Azusa Ino, 31, of Japan, off a cliff face in Kalalau Valley on Dec. 16.
Ino was reportedly hiking with a companion at the time and fell 15 feet. She was admitted to Wilcox Memorial Hospital in critical condition until she improved, and was released from the hospital on Dec. 26.
Police are asking the public to report any sightings of Klein, but recommend not approaching him as he is believed to be dangerous.
According to emails from Klein’s older sister, Jody Pearson, 42, of Georgia, Klein has hiked the Kalalau Trail more than once. She recalls that he was on it as recently as late as October with a new friend.
“He (Klein) is a good swimmer and an outdoorsman, but he is not a savage or a murderer,” Pearson said. “If anything he is homeless, hungry and in a desperate situation.”
Pearson said she was shocked to read the news that her brother was considered “aggressive, dangerous and should be avoided.” She said for people who knew him, they would be surprised to hear that depiction of him.
“This has been a tragic event for my family as well as the victim’s,” she said. “My brother has a past, but accepting that he would purposely throw someone from a cliff is hard for me to believe.”
Pearson said she has not heard from Klein and does not know if he is alive or dead, but she wants to believe that he is alive and is in hiding.
Klein moved to Kaua‘i from Oregon last May “broke and homeless looking for a new beginning,” Pearson said.
For the previous six years, before he moved to Kaua‘i, Pearson said Klein’s life changed from that of a devoted husband and father who owned a very busy landscaping company, to that of an on-and-off drug user.
“Drugs have gotten in his way many times over the last several years and caused him to get into some trouble and lose everything,” she said. “His business, his wife, his children and all of his possessions were either sold or lost.”
As a teenager, she said Klein had a troubled history but settled down when he married and had children.
“He was a fantastic father,” she said.
Things changed after Klein hired an old friend to work at his landscape company, according to Pearson. The friend turned him on to methamphetamine, she said.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks announced Monday that it reopened the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park to the public for hiking and camping by permit. It was closed as the Kaua‘i County police and DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers searched for Klein.
CrimeStoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone with information leading to his arrest.
Any person having information on Klein’s whereabouts should contact the Kaua‘i Police Department immediately at 241-1711 or via CrimeStoppers at 241-1887.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or email@example.com.