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Wednesday, August 4, 1999



Art

Police say they have a
witness to murders

By Jaymes K. Song and Rod Ohira
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

A man has told investigators he saw two men shot to death and their bodies dumped into the ocean, court documents show. The documents also suggest a North Shore drug ring may have been involved in two additional unsolved murders.

So far two men -- Benjamin Tandal, 20 and Edward Vidal, 33 -- have been charged with first- and second-degree murder in connection with the disappearance of Steven Tozon and Tranquilino "Junior" Bati, who were reported missing in June 1997.

Tandal and Vidal are being held in lieu of $400,000 bail apiece. They appeared in District Court today and were expected to plead not guilty.

A 35-year-old former state prison guard who is in federal custody for drug-related offenses, will likely be indicted on the same murder counts as Tandal and Vidal at a later date, authorities said.

In addition to Tozon and Bati, police reportedly are looking for the skeletal remains of two other missing men -- Paris France, who disappeared in October 1997, and John Wailehua-Hansen, whose car was found abandoned in Pearl City earlier this year. All reportedly have connections to a North Shore drug-dealing operation allegedly run by the former state prison guard.

The court documents quote a witness, Elvin Leong, who told police Friday that he was at the Waialua home of the former prison guard in June 1997 with Tandal, Vidal, France, Tozon and Bati, according to documents filed in court.

Leong said he witnessed Tandal shoot Tozon outside the home in the presence of the guard, Vidal and France. Bati was then "physically escorted" to the carport by Vidal, France, Rivera and Tandal. Tandal then shot Bati.

Leong said he was ordered to dispose of Tozon and Bati's cars. About two weeks to a month later, Leong accompanied the murder suspects to a secluded area to dig a grave for the rotting bodies of Tozon and Bati. The bodies were later removed and dumped at sea outside Haleiwa with cement tiles attached to them as weights, he said.

On Saturday, Leong took a polygraph test and his statements were determined to be truthful, according to the document.

A woman who is a close friend of Tandal also told police that Tandal killed the two men, but the murder was ordered by the former prison guard, according to detective's report in the affidavit.

Police reportedly searched different locations near Waialua off Kaukonahua Road yesterday, using a backhoe in at least one location where a body was reportedly tossed in a deep existing hole that was then covered over.

Tandal is the son of Benjamin Tandal Jr., who was convicted in 1989 of killing his wife, Roxanne, in December 1988.



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