Thursday, June 26, 2003

Woman gets life term
for murder of caregiver

A 57-year-old woman was sentenced yesterday to a mandatory life term with parole for stabbing her Waipahu care-home operator to death in September 2000 because she did not like the food she was being fed.

Emelie Rauschenburg showed no emotion when Circuit Judge Derrick Chan handed down the sentence for second-degree murder and when family members of Agapita Alcaraz, 64, described how their lives have been affected by her violent death, said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffrey Albert.

Rauschenburg testified at trial that Alcaraz fed her "junk food" despite her objections. After Alcaraz gave her crackers for a snack, she "lost it" and stabbed her, Rauschenburg said.

Deputy public defender Gary Oakes argued at trial that Rauschenburg suffered from an extreme mental and emotional disturbance.

But Circuit Judge Wilfred Watanabe, who presided over the jury-waived trial, rejected the argument and concluded that Rauschenburg knew what she was doing and had planned to harm Alcaraz in the days leading to the stabbing.

Nearly 20 years ago, Rauschenburg was acquitted by reason of insanity for starting a fire at a Makiki boarding house, causing the death of one person. She was committed to the Hawaii State Hospital but conditionally released four years later. She has been in and out of care homes since then.

Alcaraz's husband, Bartolome, had said they never knew about Rauschenburg's violent past and would not have accepted her had they known.

In response, state lawmakers passed a bill in 2002 that requires the Department of Health to disclose to care-home operators the criminal histories of prospective residents who have been convicted of a violent crime against another person, or if they have been committed to the State Hospital after being acquitted by reason of insanity of a violent crime against another.


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