Waialua man getsBy Debra Barayuga
15 years for role
A 21-year-old Waialua man faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment for the murders and disposal of the bodies of two North Shore men and for helping bury the body of a third.
Under a plea agreement, Benjamin Tandal Jr. yesterday avoided a mandatory life term without parole by pleading guilty to the murder of Steve Tozon and no contest to the murder of Tranquilino Bati Jr. He also pleaded guilty to helping others dispose of the bodies.
The change of plea yesterday capped an investigation that stemmed from the disappearance three years ago of Tozon, Bati and Paris France.
Prosecutors say the murders stemmed from drug-related disputes.
Judge Victoria Marks set sentencing for June 7. It will be up to the Hawaii Paroling Authority to decide how much time Tandal will actually have to serve, but it will be no less than 15 years.
Under the agreement, Tandal admitted to shooting Tozon in the side of the head June 1997 and that same day, using the same firearm to shoot Bati. Tandal said he helped destroy evidence by exhuming the bodies of Tozon and Bati from their unmarked graves in August 1997, transporting the bodies by boat and dumping them at sea, weighing them down with bricks.
He also admitted to helping co-defendants Edward Vidal Jr. and Styran Rivera dispose of France's body by digging a hole in a secluded area and burying it.
Tandal, as part of the agreement, agreed to provide police with everything he knows about the murders of Tozon, Bati and France.
If Tandal cooperates fully, the state will not seek enhanced or extended sentences. The state will also not ask for consecutive sentences that, in effect, could result in life without the possibility of parole, Deputy Prosecutor Marcus Sierra said.