DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Christopher Aki, on trial for the murder of Kahealani Indreginal, 11, took the stand in his own defense yesterday. He put his hand to his throat as he described seeing the blood around Kahealani's neck on the day she was killed. Aki testified that it was the girl's uncle Dennis Cacatian who took her to a hiking trail and killed her.
girl’s brutal slaying
The accused murderer testifies
in his defense, saying he was
afraid of the alleged true killer
Christopher Aki testified yesterday he did not hurt or kill 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal, but feels "terrible" and blames himself for her death.
"I feel it's all my fault," he said. "If I didn't take Kahea that day, she would still be here. It's all my fault."
Aki, 21, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly killing Kahealani, the younger half sister of his former longtime girlfriend. He testified yesterday in his defense. Aki, who had told police he had committed the murder in a crystal methamphetamine-induced rage, now says that he falsely confessed because he was afraid of the man he contends is the real killer.
During his testimony, he spoke articulately and punctuated his answers with "Yes, sir" and "No, sir."
Aki said he had not intended to take Kahealani with him to an Aiea state park on Dec. 10, 2002, but did so because she had confided in him the night before that her uncle Dennis Cacatian had been touching her inappropriately.
The next day, Aki said, he called Cacatian and arranged to meet with him at the park to talk.
"This was, to me, more important," he said during questioning by deputy public defender Todd Eddins.
At the park, Cacatian was accompanied by another man, whom Aki said he did not know.
Cacatian asked Aki if he believed Kahealani. "I said yes because Kahea is not the type of child to lie about something like that, and I know about Dennis raping people before," Aki testified.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Christopher Aki, 21, was flanked in court yesterday by his public defenders, Todd Eddins and Leilani Lujan.
Upon hearing the allegations, an angry Cacatian ordered Kahealani out of the car, he said. "She was scared, walking very slow, and teary," Aki said.
Cacatian asked Kahealani, "Why are you telling Chris and the family lies like this?" and backhanded her in the mouth, Aki said.
Aki testified that he stepped between Kahealani and Cacatian, but Cacatian grabbed his shirt and ordered him to return to his car. Aki said he was scared and unwilling to get into a fight with the much bigger Cacatian, so he returned to his car as Cacatian and Kahealani went down a trail.
After the two were gone for about five minutes, Aki went looking for them, he testified.
"I saw Dennis standing up," Aki said. "He was looking straight at me with a knife in his hand and Kahea on her stomach lying down."
Aki testified that he moved closer as Cacatian ordered him to take the girl down the slope.
"I didn't know what was going on, and I noticed blood all over her neck. She wasn't moving. She wasn't making any sound. Obviously, she wasn't alive. I knew she was dead right there," Aki said.
"I backed off, started gagging. I could smell the blood -- it was in the air. I was watching Dennis. I thought the same thing would happen to me," he said.
When Cacatian ordered him back up the hill to keep a lookout, Aki complied, he said.
When asked why he did not flee, Aki said he was not about to chance it.
"I wasn't really thinking straight," he said. "I was in shock over what happened."
Cacatian came up after a while to retrieve a pipelike tool from his van and went back down the hill.
Aki said he peered down the slope and watched the unidentified man with Cacatian pushing Kahealani's body down the slope using the tool. When the two men returned to the parking lot, they jumped into Aki's car and drove off. Aki went to check on Kahealani.
"She was bleeding all over her neck. She wasn't breathing, she wasn't making any sound. She was dead," he said. He said he kneeled at her side, believing the same would happen to him. "I was just praying right there."
He was still at her side when Cacatian, holding a large rock, and the other man returned. As Aki watched, Cacatian smashed the rock twice on the girl's face, near her mouth, he said.
"I turned away. I couldn't look. I heard it a couple more times," he said. "I was shaking very bad. I'm scared. I couldn't stop throwing up. The fear that came over me -- I couldn't stop it."
Cacatian ordered him to conceal her body, so he grabbed a log and gathered leaves and bushes to place over her, Aki said.
Cacatian then pulled out a gun and allegedly told him, "You don't know nothing, you don't see anything, you ain't talking to nobody, or you're dead and your family," Aki said. "I thought he was going to pull the trigger right there. I thought I was gonna die."
During cross-examination, city prosecutor Peter Carlisle stressed that Aki falsely implicated other people, cast suspicion on Kahealani's parents and changed his story to police before confessing.
Aki denied casting suspicion on Kahealani's parents but admitted that he falsely implicated two other men because he did not want his mother to think he was the murderer.
Aki also admitted to giving police misleading information about Kahealani's whereabouts when he knew she was already dead.
At Carlisle's request, Aki stood up and demonstrated how Cacatian held the rock -- estimated at 40 pounds -- about waist-high and dropped it on Kahealani's face more than four times.
Aki said that after he left the park that day and until her body was found three days later, he did not call 911 or let anyone, even her family, know where she was.
When questioned by Eddins, Aki said: "I had a gun to my head, my life was threatened, my family was threatened. I wasn't about to give that up to anybody. I seen it happen to a little girl. It could happen again."
Besides, he said, he believed police when they told him that they had all the evidence they needed and knew who had killed Kahealani.
"I thought police would figure it out," Aki said. "They're supposed to be detectives."
The defense has subpoenaed Cacatian to testify today. He has not been charged with Kahealani's death and has denied any involvement. His attorney, Michael Park, confirmed that Cacatian would be in court but would decide today whether he will take the stand.