Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Acquittal in Maui murder
upsets woman’s relatives

They express dismay over a conclusion
that the suspect was insane

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> Family members of slain Maui woman Nancy Sirovetz said they are upset that the killer was acquitted by reason of insanity and fear he may be released to do it again.

"It's just a shame," said Sirovetz's son Jason Townsley, interviewed by telephone from Texas.

Townsley's wife, Nicole, said she felt the laws in Hawaii were too lenient.

"It's just very unfortunate that someone would be let go after murdering someone," she said. "If he did it in Texas, he would never see the light of day."

She said the possibility that a court could eventually release Dennis R. Love has made the family feel there was a lack of justice.

"It just brings more burden, not closure," she said.

Love, 62, was acquitted yesterday by a Maui Circuit Court jury that found he did not know right from wrong or appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions when he strangled Sirovetz, who lived at Baldwin Beach Park in Paia. Love also was homeless.

Sirovetz's body was found May 24, 2000, at Baldwin Beach Park. After yesterday's verdict, Love was taken into custody for treatment indefinitely at Hawaii State Hospital.

Under Hawaii law, he could be released if a judge determined he was no longer a danger to society and showed he was cured of mental illness. Deputy Public Defender Barry Porter said he was pleased with the verdict because mentally ill people should not be in prison.

Porter said during the trial, police testified that in at least two instances before the murder, Love was arrested for irrational and bizarre behavior.

One of them included driving his girlfriend's car into the ocean and then trying to halt attempts to retrieve the vehicle.

Porter said it was unfortunate that Love, who was in custody, was released 15 days before the killing instead of being kept in psychiatric care.

"It's a tragedy but the tragedy did not continue," he said. "The jury followed the law."

The prosecution had argued that Love was aware of what he was doing and had explained a number of motives for the killing during a subsequent interview with police, including the theft of $500 to $600 in cash.

"Our position was, he did understand right from wrong and able to control his conduct," said Deputy Prosecutor Peter Hanano.

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