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Saturday, May 20, 2000



By Ronen Zilberman, Associated Press
Byran Uyesugi looks toward the jury box yesterday on the
fourth day of his murder trial. He seeks acquital by reason
of insanity in the shooting deaths of seven
of his Xerox co-workers.

Uyesugi told
negotiator of
fears, feelings

'He did what he had to do
because he had to
make a point'

By Debra Barayuga
and Suzanne Tswei


There was no one, it seemed, Byran Uyesugi could confide in.

Co-workers shunned him. He wasn't close to family members. Even at Castle Hospital where he sought help, he felt there was no one to talk to.

Xerox Trial When someone did listen, it was a crisis negotiator with the Honolulu Police Department.

Sheryl Sunia was the first person Uyesugi spoke to after seven people were shot to death at his workplace, the Xerox warehouse on Nimitz Highway.

During a police standoff that lasted nearly five hours, Uyesugi shared with Sunia feelings he apparently hadn't shared with others closest to him, even his family.

He identified one of the victims, a fact only someone who was there could have known, Sunia testified yesterday in the fourth day of Uyesugi's murder trial.

Sunia said Uyesugi talked about prior events that may have led to the slayings of his supervisor and six co-workers.

Sunia, who spoke with him over the phone from her perch on a slope off Makiki Heights Drive, told of how she managed to earn Uyesugi's trust, make him chuckle and entice him into surrendering peacefully with an offer of the "largest Pepsi, with ice" that she could find.

During their talks, Sunia steered clear of the shooting to avoid agitating him, she said. But Uyesugi vented his feelings about his co-workers.

By Ronen Zilberman, Associated Press
Honolulu Police Department Detective Sheryl Sunia testifies
about her conversation with Uyesugi in the hours after
the co-workers were shot to death.

Uyesugi kept saying "He did what he had to do because he had to make a point," she testified. His co-workers were out to get him. People were sabotaging his hobbies and his copier parts. He was going to lose his job. He had let people down, Sunia said.

"He told me he had been wronged ... people treated him unfairly."

He mentioned a meeting at work that day. "They were gonna let me go," he told her.

She tried to impress upon him that if he had been wrongly treated, there were ways to tell his side of the story.

He told her about the time he kicked in an elevator door after a customer had ticked him off. Sunia quoted Uyesugi as saying, "they wouldn't let me forget it."

Although Xerox required him to undergo treatment at Castle Hospital, he apparently was angry that there was no one to confide in. "He was upset people weren't there to talk to him," Sunia said.

Uyesugi seemed to direct much of his anger toward co-worker Jason Balatico. He asked Sunia if she knew Balatico.

"I asked, 'who's that,'" Sunia recalled. "He said, 'He's one of the victims.'"

Co-worker a 'federal agent'

Uyesugi described Balatico as a federal agent who "did things" to him. He accused Balatico of breaking the safety on his Colt 45 -- one of the more expensive guns in his personal collection.

He called Balatico an "undercover federal agent" who would snicker and laugh at him all the time. Balatico stole his woodwork and killed the fish he was raising.

He also said "people" had planted a bug in his work van and put sugar in his gas tank.

Uyesugi's attorney, Rodney Ching, asked Sunia if Uyesugi had told her Balatico had "cut the anuses out of my fish and they died."

"He used 'a-------,'" Sunia replied.

Asked if Uyesugi had blamed other members of his work team, Sunia said, "He only mentioned Jason, he never mentioned anyone else."

Later however, Uyesugi began referring to those he believed were persecuting him as "they" or "people," rather than just Balatico, she said.

Because talking about Balatico seemed to made him more angry, Sunia steered the conversation in a different direction. But Sunia testified, "He kept bringing him up."

When asked if he had a gun, Uyesugi told her he had a 9 mm on the car seat and others at home.

He mentioned he liked hunting mouflon sheep on Lanai. Sunia said she had been to Lanai once and was chased by wild turkeys. "We chuckled about it."

Sunia assured him that if he gave up, she would make sure no one harmed him and she would personally escort him to the police station.

Sunia said Uyesugi sounded intelligent and knew what he was talking about when he spoke about servicing machines.

They talked about his options. He said he had two. One was going to jail for murder. Then he sighed -- a long, deep sigh, Sunia said, one of the indicators that a person is contemplating suicide.

Uyesugi admitted he thought about it. Sunia spoke to him about how committing suicide would ruin any chances of telling his side of the story.

Negotiator promised Pepsi

At one point, Uyesugi was asked if he wanted to listen to an audiotape of his older brother. He declined, saying the two weren't close.

After she had asked him several times, Uyesugi finally said he trusted her.

About 2:45 p.m., Sunia mentioned to him how hot it was. "I'll buy you the largest Pepsi I can find -- with ice -- if you come out," she told him.

He complied a short time later. Sunia thanked him for coming out and made good on her promise.

Two retired Xerox service technicians who had worked with Uyesugi also testified yesterday that he accused his co-workers of sabotaging his machines and had trouble keeping his customers.

Uyesugi's complaint that his co-workers tampered with parts for his machine once prompted a special meeting to address his allegations, they said.

Jerry Watanabe, who retired six months before the shooting, said Uyesugi was "adamant" about his sabotage allegations.

At the meeting, which took place four or five years before the shooting, Uyesugi offered as proof a broken part that was held together with epoxy. Uyesugi's closest working partner, Ron Kataoka, had glued it.

Watanabe said it was accepted practice at times for technicians to repair broken parts with glue as a temporary fix. After Uyesugi voiced his complaint at the meeting, all his co-workers promised to never use the temporary remedy on his machines, Watanabe said.

Watanabe said he learned from Clyde Nitta a few days after the shooting that Uyesugi had made threats on his life.

Watanabe described Uyesugi as "basically a quiet person" who could function in social situations but could not get along with co-workers and customers.

A service technician's competence depends not only on mechanical and electrical skills, Watanabe said. "The most important skill is people skills," but Uyesugi's customers were calling to request other technicians, he said.

Roy Ogawa, who also retired about the same time, said Uyesugi began losing customers "early on," two or three years after he joined the work team. His co-workers would have to pick up Uyesugi's customers, adding to their workload, Ogawa said.

Ogawa said he became concerned Uyesugi would lose his job and warned him to be careful.

"I was concerned since he was losing so many machines because the customers didn't want him to service their machines. I was concerned the company would get after him," Ogawa said. He warned Uyesugi during a morning ride to work, he said.

"I told him you better watch out because the company is looking at these things," Ogawa said.

Dr. Alvin Omori, chief medical examiner, said three of the victims he autopsied were shot mostly from the back.

John Sakamoto was on his back and Kataoka was lying face down when some of the shots were inflicted.


Bullet Monday: Psychiatrist Denis Mee-Lee of Castle Hospital and Dr. Marvin Mathews of Kaiser, who treated and diagnosed Uyesugi as suffering from a delusional disorder, are expected to take the stand. Two of Uyesugi's customers, Jan Shiraki and Lani Matsuo also may testify. City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said their testimony centered on Uyesugi blaming them for problems on their copy machines.

Bullet Tuesday: Recess

Bullet Wednesday: Doctors appointed by the court to examine Uyesugi for fitness to stand trial and his state of mind at the time of the killings are expected to testify. Psychologists Tom Greene and Tom Cunningham and psychiatrist Leonard Jacobs have independently concluded Uyesugi suffered from a mental disorder, but felt he was not insane at the time of the shootings. The defense has argued that is an issue the jury must decide. Also testifying are medical investigator Kanthi Von Guenther, who conducted autopsies on the remaining four victims, and Steve Matsuda, a Xerox employee who was shot at while fleeing down a staircase. Because the trial is "way ahead of schedule," Judge Marie Milks informed counsel that the trial will not be held on Friday, May 26, as previously scheduled.

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