LIHUE — Arnold Cruz will never forget the day his father was found dead.
“For me, it’s the hardest. I was the one who found my dad,” he said. “My two granddaughters will never get to know him and my oldest grandson will be scarred for the rest of his life, seeing his Papa lying on the couch, lifeless.”
Cruz and other members of his family testified Wednesday in front of Judge Kathleen Watanabe against Giovanni Lictawa Corpuz, who was sentenced to life in prison with parole in connection to the shooting death of 88-year-old Amby Cruz on Dec. 31, 2013. Corpuz had previously pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the second degree.
Through tears, Arnold Cruz asked Corpuz what his father did to him.
“As far as I know, he never did anything to you —he welcomed you into his house,” he said. “But what hurts the most is that you not only took my dad from me — you took my best buddy.”
Amby Cruz, who lived in Omao, was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the head in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2014, according to police reports.
Corpuz, 44, was arrested in Taiwan while en route to the Philippines on Jan. 10, 2014.
Five days later, a grand jury indictment charged Corpuz, of Koloa, with second-degree murder and carrying or using a firearm in the commission of a separate felony.
“My dad let you into his house. He fed you, he drank with you. Yet you killed him without any second thoughts or reservations,” said Anthony Cruz, his other son. “How on the face of Earth could you have killed an innocent 88-year-old man? You are inhumane, selfish and have no compassion.”
The morning after the shooting, Arnold Cruz said he and Corpuz crossed paths.
“You knew who I was. That day, you saw me, you never even asked why the police were there or what happened,” he said. “You looked at me straight in the eyes with a smirk on your face and kept walking.”
But, despite that, Arnold Cruz said he forgives Corpuz.
“Being the Christian that I am, I forgive you, but I will never forget,” he said.
His sister, Adela Padasdao, said she does not know if she can forgive him.
“Giovanni was taken into our family like a brother. How can I forgive you when you were treated like family?” she said. “The question of ‘why’ is still in my thoughts — how can you do this to someone who was like your dad?”
During the proceedings, Corpuz’s lawyer, Mark Zenger, read a statement on behalf of his client: “To the victim’s family, this court and community members of Kauai, I want to say to all of you and even to my own family and friends, I am very sorry for what I have done. I do understand the depth of what happened and the pain and suffering I put everyone through. I do take responsibility for my actions. I do hope you guys forgive me. If not, I understand.”
Zenger said there is only one sentence expected to be handed down, and that is life in prison with parole.
“He made a statement in his guilty plea that he acknowledged he is guilty of the death of Mr. Cruz by shooting him in the head with a firearm,” he said.
Jennifer Winn, first deputy prosecuting attorney, didn’t present any arguments, but asked Watanabe to sentence Corpuz to life in prison with parole.
The Hawaii Paroling Authority will determine how much time Corpuz must serve before being eligible to apply for parole.
Watanabe said the case can be summed up with one word.
“I have presided over a number of sentencings in murder cases and I’ve presided over a number of murder trials. If I were to sum this matter up, it will be ‘senseless,’” she said.
She told Corpuz to try to find compassion for the family while serving the life sentence.
“I hope you will feel the pain that was clearly demonstrated in the courtroom,” she said. “And I just want to say that in the future, Mr. Corpuz, you’re going to have to deal with a much higher power than me.”