KAILUA-KONA — A Hawaii woman has been sentenced to serve at least two decades in prison for killing a 6-year-old boy in a case that revealed a pattern of abuse that the judge characterized as torture.
Ashley Nihipal was sentenced to the maximum term of 20 years for causing the death of Mazen Kaniela Nihipali-Moniz at a Big Island apartment complex on Halloween in 2018 while she was caring for the boy, West Hawaii Today reported Sunday.
Nihipal pleaded guilty in September to manslaughter and three counts of felony abuse of a family or household member in the presence of minor under age 14.
Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert Kim sentenced Nihipal Friday.
In addition to the manslaughter term, Kim sentenced her to consecutive terms of five years for the three abuse charges, calling the death a “horrible case of abuse and torture.”
“I am giving you the maximum because it is what you deserve,” Kim said during the sentencing hearing.
Authorities said Nihipali-Moniz was choked by Nihipal after his school reported to her that the boy removed a Lego piece from a book.
“Eventually he stopped breathing,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chase Murray said. “The autopsy showed body bruising, signs of strangulation and bleeding from the liver.”
Nihipali’s wife, Kuuipo Nihipali, was also charged in connection with the case and agreed to testify against her spouse.
Nihipali-Moniz and four other children under the care of the women suffered a series of abuses after moving in with the couple, Murray said.
“They were beaten, choked and burned with hot water,” Murray said.
The women told the children to lie to investigators about the death, but they eventually revealed what they witnessed, Murray said.
Ashley Nihipal entered a plea agreement with prosecutors, who dropped additional charges including second-degree murder, second-degree felony abuse, hindering prosecution, evidence tampering and terroristic threatening.
Ashley Nihipal’s attorney, Andrew Kennedy, said the death was a tragic crime.
“Ashley didn’t want Mazen to die,” Kennedy said. “She didn’t act appropriately. It was a reckless act.”