Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Shooting suspects
plead not guilty

Rodney Joseph and Ethan Motta
are held; third suspect Kevin
Gonsalves is at large

Two suspects in the Pali Golf Course double slaying pleaded not guilty to murder charges yesterday as police continued to search for a third suspect who they said may be with his sister, also a fugitive.

Kevin "Pancho" Gonsalves is wanted for questioning in connection with the fatal shootings of Lepo Utu Taliese and Lawrence "Romelius" Corpuz on Wednesday, police said.

Corpuz' brother, Tino Sao, was also shot and remains hospitalized at the Queen's Medical Center.

Police said Gonsalves is known to frequent the Leeward Coast and that tips received have placed him in Waikiki, Honolulu and Waianae.

Police also said that Gonsalves may be with his sister, Catharine "Cats" Gutierrez, who is wanted for a probation revocation warrant for a drug offense.

Gonsalves, 33, is described as 5 feet 9 inches, about 140 pounds, with a medium build, hair dyed red and brown eyes. Gutierrez, 34, is 5 feet 4 inches tall, about 126 pounds, with long brown hair and brown eyes.

Police warn that both fugitives should be considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached.

Anyone who spots either suspect should call 911 and describe the location and clothes that the suspects are wearing, police said. Anyone with information on the shooting or on the fugitives is asked to call the police Criminal Investigation Division at 529-3115 or CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.

In District Court yesterday morning, Rodney V. Joseph, of Waianae, and Ethan Motta, of Hilo, each pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, one count of second-degree attempted murder and four firearm violations. Both men are being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

Joseph's attorney, Michael Green, asked District Judge Bert Ayabe to reduce his client's bail to $250,000, saying Joseph had turned himself in and was not a flight risk. A hearing on the request was to be scheduled. Both men are scheduled for a preliminary hearing tomorrow afternoon.

Sources close to the investigation have told the Star-Bulletin the violence was the result of a turf war between two factions vying to provide security at underground gambling clubs around the state.

Last week's shooting occurred in the golf course's parking lot just before 1:15 p.m. and continued into the clubhouse area and onto the fairway near the first hole. Police have said between 13 and 18 rounds were fired from two handguns, which have not been recovered.

Margie Corpuz, a sister of Taliese and the wife of Romelius Corpuz Jr. (also known as Lawrence Corpuz), said her brother-in-law Sao is well guarded at the hospital and no one is allowed to visit him, except his wife. Sao was having surgery yesterday to remove a bullet lodged under his eye, Corpuz said.

Police homicide Lt. Bill Kato said yesterday that Sao was "not so serious" at the Queen's Medical Center, but could not confirm if he had been upgraded to serious from critical condition.

Kato said that neither Joseph nor Motta is talking to police.

Services for Taliese and Corpuz will be held together at Kanana Fou Congregational Church in Kunia Jan. 30. They will be buried at Hawaiian Memorial Park Jan. 31.

Star-Bulletin reporters Sally Apgar and Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.


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