This week The Garden Island staff reflected on the top stories of 2020. But, the reality is, there only seemed to be one story: the coronavirus. From its arrival to the islands, subsequent lockdown to stem the virus’ spread, to its impacts on all aspect of our island life. The story is still being written.
Here is a look chronologically at what else happened in 2020.
Doomsday couple comes to Kaua‘i
In February, Lori Vallow, mother of two children missing from Idaho, was arrested and held on a $5 million bail.
The 46-year-old Idaho resident was arrested on a warrant issued by Madison County, Idaho. Her two children, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow, had been missing since last September.
Vallow had been staying on Kaua‘i with her new husband Chad Daybell, dodging a court order from Madison County, Idaho, to produce her children before authorities. Vallow missed the deadline for that court order on Jan. 30. KPD has been helping the Rexburg Police Department in locating Vallow and Daybell since December 2019, about the time when the couple landed on Kaua‘i.
Vallow was charged with two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. She was also charged with resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, and contempt of court for willful disobedience of court process or order.
About a week later, in a hearing in Fifth District Court in Lihu‘e, Vallow waived her right to an extradition hearing, confirmed her identity and prepared to head back to Idaho to face charges.
In Idaho, Lori Vallow Daybell entered a not guilty plea on two felony charges, conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence, at her arraignment in the Seventh Judicial Court court of Idaho in Freemont, Idaho.
In June, the children were found buried in her husband’s Idaho property. The jury trial will begin on March 22, 2021 and go through April.
Arthur Brun arrested
Also in February, County Councilmember Arthur Brun and 11 others were arrested and charged with operating a huge methamphetamine distribution ring on Kaua‘i, including allegedly procuring an unlicensed firearm.
The Kaua‘i Police Department described the action as a “massive islandwide drug sweep” in which Brun was arrested, and brought to light more information about an incident in which he was arrested in November 2019, where he fled after striking a KPD officer with his car and flung a bag of methamphetamines from his vehicle as he tried to escape.
While the traffic stop arrest had been previously disclosed, Brun’s action to throw a bag of illegal drugs from his car as he led a police pursuit had not been made public before February’s arrest.
KPD and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Honolulu held a news conference that provided additional details on the case. A county news release described a “major drug-trafficking organization” headed by Brun, who according to a 29-page federal indictment was known as “Ata” within the drug ring.
The arrest came as a result of a federal indictment filed Feb. 13, charging that Brun ran the drug ring while he was “a sitting member of the Kaua‘i County Council and the vice chair of its Public Safety and Human Services Committee.”
Trial was originally scheduled for October for Arthur Brun. But the trial was postponed partly because of constraints on jury trials during the coronavirus pandemic and because federal prosecutors are asking that the case be declared complex.
Brun is tentatively set a new date later in 2021.
Heavy rain flooded many areas on east and north sides of Kaua‘i in late March, triggering a debris pile-up along the makai side of the Kuhio Highway Wailua River bridge and temporary road closures throughout the island.
According to the National Weather Service, Wailua had 7.33 inches of rain during the 24-hour period.
Homes flooded as well as waterways, and Kaua‘i first responders rescued a family of 20 trapped under their Wailua home on Apana Road after flash flooding occurred.
The rains caused an undetermined amount of partially treated wastewater to spill into the nearshore waters fronting Lydgate Park.
Kuhio Highway near the Hanalei River was closed periodically during the downpour.
County Council election
Twenty-one candidates officially filed to run for Kaua‘i County Council seats by June’s filing deadline.
All seven councilmember seats are up for grabs, with eligible incumbents Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Luke Evslin, Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali‘i running for reelection.
Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa reached his term limits, and ex-officio member Arthur Brun is currently awaiting trial for his alleged role in leading a meth drug ring on the island.
Joining the incumbents were: Rev. Jade T. Wai‘ale‘ale Battad, Addison Bulosan, Donovan Kanani Cabebe, Bernard Carvalho, Mike Dandurand, Billy De Costa, Debralynn Desilva Carveiro, Victoria Franks, Richard Fukushima, Ed Justus, Jacquelyn “Jakki” Nelson, Wally Nishimura, Rory Parker, Shirley Simbre-Medeiros, Naomi “Omi” Taniguchi, Clint Yago Sr.
After the votes were tallied in November, incumbents Chock, Evslin, Kaneshiro, Cowden and Kuali‘i were re-elected. Carvalho Jr. and DeCosta rounded out the council’s seven seats.
State closes Polihale
At the end of July, Polihale State Park was closed to the public indefinitely, with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources stating the reason is reckless, illegal behavior and overuse.
It’s among several State Parks areas within Hawai‘i that were targeted for closure due to behavior DLNR labels as “egregious.”
In announcing the park closure, DLNR said it is nearly impossible to enforce park rules due to its large size and isolated location. COVID-19 has exacerbated all those issues, and public health and safety concerns, contributed to the decision to close the park.
DLNR reopened the park in December. New signage displayed at the park spell out several rules, like no pets except service animals, no open fires or alcohol, no driving on sand dunes, and to use the restrooms, not the bushes. “Respect this park or it will be closed,” the sign states.
Path to beach access dispute
In the middle of August, Kaua‘i Police Department was called on a group clearing a path commonly used for beach access that crosses private property.
A group of about 20 people were pushing aside green waste debris consisting of palm fronds and tree trunks when officers responded to a call of property damage.
A long-standing issue at the end of ‘Aliomanu Road, in which Native Hawaiian and neighbors say they have the right to trek through the property to allow for beach access for fishing and gathering.
This group has been out about four times green waste, and even a mesh fence, to gain beach access. Over the weekend, more waste had appeared, blocking the path. Residents mobilized, organizing a clean-up of the path.
Councilmember Mason Chock, Kaua‘i chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Native Hawaiians and neighbors came out in more force to finish the job.
The tenants, who would not comment for this story, again came out to request the group stop or police would be called.
KPD officers came again and asked the group to leave the premises or show proof that they were allowed on the property. At this point, clearing the path stalled.
“Public access cannot — and should not — be denied,” Nalani Kaneakua said. “We come in good faith. I work for the kupuna.”
Love has Won protest
In early September, the group Love Has Won, a religious nonprofit currently based out of Crestone, Colorado, began making the move to Kaua‘i. Its leader, who goes by “Mother God,” urged her followers to join her in Hawai‘i for a “portal to Lemuria,” of which she believes to have been the queen of in a past life.
North Shore residents came out in force, surrounding the home of a group of new arrivals staying at a rental house off Kuhio Highway. Protesters arrived at the beachfront property, gathering on the beach for a pule. With about 60 people locking hands, Lahela Correa led a prayer.
“We started with the pule because we wanted everybody to be calm, peaceful,” Correa said. “Maybe we can teach them aloha.”
The protests continued into the evening and into Saturday. There were visible signs of damage to the group’s vehicle and rental property.
Mayor Kawakami met with the group later in the day in the advising them to leave the island for their own safety.
By Sunday, the group was escorted to the airport in a caravan and left the island.
Target to open
In October, The Kukui Grove Center announced the arrival of Target to its ‘ohana of retailers, restaurants, and specialty services to the building at the Kukui Marketplace.
The planned store will cover approximately 122,000 square feet following a renovation to the existing space at the Kukui Marketplace, the announcement states.
“We are delighted to be able to welcome Target to Lihu‘e,” said David Sosner, the Kukui Grove Center general manager. “This is an important project for us, introducing a substantial building renovation and new jobs to boost our local economy.
“The potential arrival of Target has been a buzz in the community for years, and we are excited to be able to deliver this new offering to Kaua‘i consumers. We think it will be a wonderful addition to our mix of retailers, restaurants, and specialty services at Kukui Grove, and offer a new shopping experience that we don’t currently have available on Kaua‘i,” said Sosner.
Construction continues on the property, and a timeline for opening is not set.