Saturday, November 27, 2004

Awana claims

He says a tussle over marijuana
led to an accidental shooting after
he was threatened

A Circuit Court jury listened yesterday to the police-taped confession of Gregory Awana, who explained how he killed a drug-business associate as the two wrestled over a gun on the floor of a house used to grow marijuana.

"The gun went off three times -- pang, pang, pang," Awana said on the confession taped the evening of Sept. 1, 2003.

Awana, 38, an investigator with the city medical examiner's office and a former deputy sheriff, went on trial this week for second-degree murder in the death of Yorck Woita, 28, on Aug. 29, 2003.

Awana's wife, Jody, and their young daughter, flanked by other friends and family, sat in the first row of Circuit Judge Steven Alm's courtroom. Mother and daughter hugged each other and cried soundlessly as Awana recounted the threats to them and how Woita, who felt "ripped off," had said, "I should f---- kill you right now."

Awana's defense is that Woita threatened to kill him and his family and that the gun, Awana's own .22-caliber Beretta, accidentally fired three times as the two men wrestled. The three bullets hit Woita in the left side of the head, killing him.

Throughout the afternoon, Awana frequently glanced at his wife and daughter.

The prosecution believes that Awana wanted to keep Woita out of his marijuana business and killed him. Woita's body has never been found.

Awana recounted on the tape how he had met Woita and his father and that they wanted to start a marijuana "grow house" in a two-story home in Manoa.

Awana told police he backed out of the deal because Woita "was affiliated with a bunch of 'ice' heads, and I don't know if he was taking ice himself or not, but he had a big mouth."

Awana said he then went to work for a Maui drug operation, raising marijuana in the Manoa grow house. He said he only did it because "I had recently lost my home to a lawsuit, I wasn't working and I just wanted to get back on my feet."

Windows of the house were blocked with black plastic, and two rooms were fitted with grow lights and a duct system to vent the intense heat from the lamps out of the house.

On the tape, Awana told police he was sitting in Woita's yellow sport utility vehicle Aug. 29, 2003, when Woita confronted him about the Manoa grow house.

Awana told police Woita demanded to be driven to the house, saying that if he did not, "my boys are going to f-- up your wife and daughter."

At the house, Awana said Woita demanded the whole crop of marijuana and $10,000. Awana said Woita threatened to hurt his family if he did not get the money.

Awana said that Woita had grabbed his Beretta semiautomatic pistol from a drawer and pointed it at him, saying, "I should f---- kill you for ripping me off."

Awana said he made a move for the gun, the two wrestled and the gun fired. Awana said he panicked.

He said he drove Woita's yellow Xterra to a back road in Waimanalo and burned it. The next morning, he borrowed a friend's small Boston Whaler that was on a trailer hitched to a truck. At the Manoa house, Awana said he wrapped the body in black plastic, bound it with chains and put it in the front of the boat. He drove to Kaneohe Bay, launched the boat and, after driving out to sea for about an hour, attached the body to 25-pound weights and dumped it.

Trial resumes Tuesday.



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