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Thursday, April 15, 2004



Aki kept changing
his story, police say

The suspect in the Kahealani
Indreginal murder denies
any role in the slaying


Christopher Aki initially told police he was nowhere near the Halawa Housing complex the afternoon Kahealani Indreginal disappeared in December 2002.

He also denied hurting Kahealani, according to the first tape-recorded statement he gave to police Dec. 13, three hours before the 11-year-old Aiea Elementary sixth-grader's body was found badly decomposed off the Aiea Loop Trail.

"I never touched her," Aki said.

The nearly hour-long interview with police was played to jurors yesterday during Aki's murder trial at Circuit Court. Aki, 21, is charged with second-degree murder in the girl's Dec. 10 death.

The statement is one of several versions Aki gave police before he confessed Dec. 14 to repeatedly hitting Kahealani with a pipe after she slapped him when he accidentally spit on her.

Honolulu police acting Detective Phillip Camero said officers had not identified Aki as a suspect at the time of the first interview. Police were questioning Aki just as they had done with Kahealani's parents, siblings and those close to her. Aki is the longtime boyfriend of Kahealani's older half sister, Tanya Mamala-Tumbaga.

Throughout the interview, Aki sounded well-spoken and forthcoming.

Even when detectives brought up reports by people who said they saw Aki speaking to Kahealani at the housing complex the day she disappeared, he did not skip a beat.

"It's impossible," he said. "I swear to God, it couldn't have happened."

Prosecutors contend Aki misled police before confessing he beat her at least 20 times with a pipe while he was under the effects of crystal methamphetamine.

They say blood found in the blue Neon that Aki drove matches Kahealani's and matches his account of where he tossed the murder weapon after beating her.

The defense does not dispute Aki drove Kahealani to the Aiea park, but argued that it was Kahealani's uncle, Dennis Cacatian, who killed her with a knife and bludgeoned her with a large rock. Aki contends he went to the park to speak to Cacatian after Kahealani confided that her uncle had been inappropriately touching her. Cacatian has not been arrested or charged in Kahealani's death.

The defense contends Aki lied to police and confessed to a crime he did not commit because he had been threatened at gunpoint not to say anything or he and his family would die.

In his first statement, Aki said the last time he saw Kahealani was Dec. 9, the evening before she disappeared. She was visiting Aki's son, Ezra, at the home of Aki's grandparents in Kalihi Valley.

Mamala-Tumbaga was living with him there at the time. Kahealani's mother picked her up between 8:30 and 9 p.m., Aki said.

Aki said he left home about 12:30 p.m. the next day to go job hunting but instead picked up a friend, "Koa" Ballesteros, and his girlfriend, Charise Kekawa, from the Halawa Housing complex before dropping Kekawa off at work in Waimalu.

He said he and Ballesteros drove to the nearby Aiea Cue to shoot pool and hang out until Kekawa finished work. They picked her up, and Aki dropped off the couple back at Halawa Housing around 3:30 p.m. Aki told police he went directly home afterward because he had to care for his son.

On Tuesday, Ballesteros testified that he was walking Kekawa to work Dec. 9 -- not Dec. 10, as Aki claimed -- when Aki stopped to pick them up.

Ballesteros said the three drove to nearby Blaisdell Park to smoke crystal methamphetamine before dropping Kekawa off at work.

He said he and Aki drove around until Kekawa finished work about 4:30 p.m., then Aki dropped off the couple at Kekawa's parents' home in Halawa.

Ballesteros said he and Kekawa spotted Aki driving past Halawa Housing the next day around 11 a.m. and flagged him down. Aki told them he had to go pick up his girlfriend's sister.

Ballesteros said he learned the following day that a girl missing from Halawa Housing was the sister of Mamala-Tumbaga. He had Kekawa call police to tell them what Aki had said.

Ballesteros said that on Dec. 14 he returned home after giving a statement to police and found Aki had left three messages on his cell phone.

In those messages, Aki instructed Ballesteros to tell police he had been with the couple until 4:30 p.m. Dec. 10, the day Kahealani disappeared.

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