Saturday, October 30, 2004

Murder suspect will
fight charges

An ex-city employee will claim
self-defense in Yorck Woita's death

A former city investigator accused of murdering a Waimanalo man and disposing of his body at an undisclosed location is expected to raise self-defense at his upcoming trial.

Gregory Awana, 38, a former deputy sheriff and investigator for the city medical examiner, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Yorck K. Woita, 28. The trial is scheduled to begin the week of Nov. 15.

In asking the court to delay Awana's trial, defense attorney David Gierlach told Circuit Judge Steve Alm that he was trying to locate a witness who has indicated to others that Woita threatened to kill Awana within hours of the last time they were seen together on Aug. 28, 2003. Woita believed Awana had ripped him off, Gierlach said.

Alm denied the request.

According to prosecutors, Woita was last seen alive by friends who were asked by him to "watch his back" when he went to meet Awana at his Manoa home that evening.

When his friends later called his cell phone to check on him, Woita confirmed Awana had a gun, according to prosecutors. An hour and a half after friends made last contact with Woita, the yellow sport utility vehicle he had been driving was found on fire in Waimanalo.

Woita's body was never found.

Awana remains in custody, unable to post $250,000 bail.

His wife, Jody Awana, pleaded guilty in November to first-degree hindering prosecution in assisting her husband in the commercial production of marijuana. She was not charged in connection with Woita's murder.

Two days after Woita disappeared, police set up surveillance at the couple's Manoa home and spotted them loading garbage bags into a truck that Awana dropped off at a Kailua dumpsite. The bags were found to contain marijuana plants and a box that appeared to contain blood-stained cement blocks and towels.



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