Drugs tied to
slayings on Big Isle

Police say narcotics were involved
in four of the six homicides this year

By Rod Thompson
Big Isle correspondent

HILO -- A link between drugs and a recent series of murders on the Big Island has residents worried.

Police confirm drugs were involved in four of the six homicides so far this year.

"Obviously drugs play a big part in a lot of crime," said police Lt. Francis Rodillas.

Becky Marvik, an employee of the Nanawale community association in the Puna district, where three of the killings occurred, said there are many drug users and recovered users in Nanawale. "It's big time over here," she said.

Community volunteer Nimfa Smyklo was stabbed to death at her Nanawale Estates home late July 10 or early July 11.

She had been involved in a dispute with former tenants of her rental house, who were demanding their deposit back. On the evening of July 10, some people stood in the street outside her house demanding their money back and threatening to kill her.

No arrests were made, and police have asked for the public's help with the case.

Marvik said recovered drug users tell her the amount of violence in the killing of Smyklo is a definite sign that the killer or killers were using drugs.

The connection was clear between drugs and a double homicide in another Puna subdivision, Mauna Loa Estates.

Antonio De La Torre Gonzalez, a witness to the July 17 shootings of brothers Arturo and Armando Renteria Hernandez, said he watched one of the victims conduct drugs deals and was offered heroin and cocaine himself.

Francisco Davalos and Hector Lopez have been indicted for murder in the case.

Betsy Kohler, a member of the neighborhood watch program in the subdivision, said the killings don't frighten her. "It doesn't worry me. I have dogs," she said.

But drugs do worry her. "We already had a black tar heroin problem in Puna," she said.

Three other homicides took place in Hilo. In May, retiree Gordon Granger was found stabbed at his Hilo home.

Police charged Christopher Wilmer Jr. with murder after his ex-girlfriend Misty Kuheana told them he confessed to killing Granger.

Police have released little information about a homicide in which victim Sean Burgado was found dead of a gunshot wound at a house in Hilo.

Police also classify as homicide the May 19 case in which officers shot and killed suspect Miguel Viera after he shot a policeman. Lt. Rodillas said Viera had been drinking, and marijuana was found with his body.

The drug link extends to cases not classified as homicide. At 4 a.m. July 11, Natlie Gacutan, 25, of no permanent address, was found dead of head injuries in the street fronting Homelani Memorial Park.

Police said the injuries were probably caused by being run over by a car, but they couldn't say whether the death was accidental or deliberate.

Gacutan had been seen getting into a car about a quarter-mile away shortly before her death and police have asked for the public's help in locating the driver of the car.

Rick Frederick, owner of the Graphic Arts shop in downtown Hilo, said he believes Gacutan's death has a link to drugs.

Lt. Chadwick Fukui confirmed that prostitutes and drug dealers hang out near Frederick's store, but he declined to make any link to Gacutan, saying the case is still under investigation.

In another case, Donnell Akana was charged with assault after he shot another man through the legs at Hirano store in Puna on Aug. 7. Rodillas said the motive for the shooting is still unknown, but Akana had a substance believed to be cocaine in his possession when arrested.

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