LIHUE — Showing no remorse and continuing to assert his innocence, the defendant charged with a first-degree murder in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole Tuesday in 5th Circuit Court.
Vicente Kotekapika Hilario, 26, of Anahola, received the mandatory life term for the murder of 34-year-old Aureo Eric Moore at Anahola Beach Park on Dec. 17, 2010. Moore was shot five times, with a sixth shot grazing his chest. He died three hours later while in intensive care.
A jury found Hilario guilty of first degree murder, witness intimidation, retaliating against a witness and bribery of a witness after two days of deliberation following a lengthy trial, which ended on March 8. Jury selection began in January 2013, and evidence was presented in February and early March.
Testimony indicated Hilario shot Moore to prevent him from testifying at a trial concerning an August 2010 daylight armed robbery of Moore in Waipouli.
Testimony at trial showed that Hilario bribed Angienora Crawford to entice Moore to Anahola on the pretext of buying oxycodone pills, and that Hilario then proceeded to chase down and shoot Moore a total of six times at close range. Hilario then fled the scene on foot, but was later apprehended by police that same day.
“This was a brutal, brutal killing,” said Chief Judge Randal Valenciano. “It was premeditated, drugs were involved, and it was an effort to protect territory.”
Valenciano said this execution-style murder was in many ways an assassination and a warning for the community.
“As a member of this community, I just hope we are not heading in that direction and because of that, the court has to take action to prevent it,” he said.
The father of the victim, Robert Moore, thanked the court, the prosecutors and the jury for their work in bringing justice for his son. He said the past two-and-a-half years have been long and difficult.
Then Robert forgave Hilario.
“I hope that he can find peace for himself, and for his family,” Robert said.
The victim’s elder brother, Brahm Moore, said after the hearing he is happy the lengthy process is over, and he forgives Hilario.
“I really feel that I don’t want to carry this resentment with me for the rest of my life,” Brahm said. “It is better to forgive people for what they have done rather than be more resentful.”
In his statement, Hilario asked the judge to set aside the verdict. He maintained his innocence and accused the prosecutor and the police with lying and said the court was taking his life while the real murderer continues to go free.
Hilario’s grandmother, Lorraine Rapozo, said he has maintained his innocence the entire time. She said her concern was the validity of testimony from key witnesses who were granted immunity by the prosecution, including one who was considered a suspect in the murder at the time.
“I just believe that my grandson is telling the truth,” Rapozo said. “I am going to be with him throughout this journey, and I am going to be with him in death.”
Valenciano said the court had the opportunity to hear testimony over several weeks, which included the defendant’s own version of the facts. In their wisdom, the jury accepted the version that the defendant did not advocate, and a guilty verdict came forward, he said.
“Excuse me your honor, do you think it works now when it accepts lies as the truth?” Hilario said. “Do you personally accept (witness) David Manaku’s testimony as the truth?”
“I accept the verdict of the jury,” said Valenciano.
“Do you think that people are infallible?” Hilario said.
After interrupting the court for a second time the judge excused Hilario from the courtroom for the remainder of the hearing.
“The evidence is overwhelming and I am not surprised that the defendant has shown no remorse,” said County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes.
Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar expressed remorse for the loss of Moore’s life and thanked law enforcement officers and prosecutors for their hard work that led to the sentencing.
“Although nothing can bring Aureo Moore back to life, we are pleased that Vicente Hilario will never be in a position to prey on the members of this community again,” Kollar said.
Mendes asked the court to sentence Hilario to a consecutive term for the bribery of Crawford. She pointed out the jury not only found that Hilario was involved in planning the murder — but that he actually pulled the trigger.
Court-appointed defense attorney Keith Shigetomi said he understood there are mandatory sentencing guidelines for first-degree murder, but asked the court to consider the consecutive sentence.
His motion to dismiss remaining charges was denied by the court. The court did not sentence on charges relating to intimidating and retaliating against witnesses. The charges were merged with the murder charge.
A bribery charge remained as a second, separate charge. He was sentenced to a consecutive five-year term.
Valenciano acknowledged Hilario’s minimal criminal history but said the brutality of the murder weighed against him and ordered the additional five-year sentence. The bribery charge goes to the core of the criminal justice system by acting to bribe or coerce witnesses from testifying, he said
The actions of the defendant are unacceptable, and life without parole and five-year consecutive sentence are appropriate to protect the public, he added.
The court also approved a motion from Mendes to order Hilario to pay restitution from the $2,792 that is being returned to him from evidence in a case that was dismissed. The court ordered $800 in restitution to cover the victim’s funeral expenses.
Shigetomi said an appeal on several issues will be filed within 30 days of sentencing with the Intermediate Court of Appeals. A decision could take two years, he said, and if an appeal is granted the case would come back to 5th Circuit.
“The primary focus will be for a new trial,” Shigetomi said. “Today is just another step in the process, and he will continue his fight in this case.”
Hilario returned to the courtroom after the sentencing for a second hearing on a motion for the return of $2,792 in cash that was taken from Hilario as evidence following an August 2010 arrest.
Hilario represented himself after dismissing his court-appointed attorney Warren Perry. He objected to the state’s request to deduct funds for restitution owed in his murder case.
“Your honor, I think the prosecution and the police have illegally seized my money and that it is inappropriate the procedures they use to keep it,” Hilario said. “They talk about ‘ill-gotten means’. I had a job. I worked. This is nonsense.”
Hilario is also pending sentencing in September on another jury conviction in May on firearms charges and drug possession charges.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.