Indicted caregiver puts off her plea
The Hilo woman faces attempted murder for injuries found on her 10-year-old charge
HILO » Hyacinth Poouahi, the former caregiver for a severely injured 10-year-old girl named Alexis, declined yesterday to enter a plea to charges of attempted murder by omission and other offenses connected to the girl, because her temporary lawyer had a conflict of interest.
Circuit Judge Glenn Hara set a new arraignment for Thursday, giving Poouahi time to find a replacement for attorney David Kuwahara. Arrested without incident at her home in Hilo yesterday morning, authorities continued to hold her in lieu of $25,000 bail.
Poouahi, 38, was indicted for five offenses this week in connection with injuries found on Alexis when Poouahi called 911 for medical help on Feb. 7. The injuries were so bad, including rotting flesh, that Alexis remained in a coma for six weeks after the 911 call.
Afterward, the girl was taken to a hospital in California for specialized treatment, police said yesterday. She was later returned to Oahu, where she remains in foster custody under the state Child Welfare Services Branch, they said.
Police said they would not comment on the girl's condition, beyond saying it had improved and "she is still in a state of recovery."
Attempted- murder suspect Hyacinth Poouahi appeared before Circuit Judge Glenn Hara yesterday but did not enter a plea because she needs a new lawyer. A new arraignment is set for Thursday.
Poouahi started caring for the girl when the girl's mother left her at Poouahi's house in November 2004. Poouahi has denied injuring the girl.
Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said yesterday that the charge of attempted murder by omission is "rare." Because Poouahi was at the scene where Alexis was injured, she had a duty to call law enforcement or medical personnel, he said.
The question is whether she did so soon enough.
In a Feb. 10 affidavit, police Sgt. Juergen Canda said Poouahi's daughter Aulii, 15, told him that Poouahi; her husband, Jaime Soares; and her son Hans, 13, all abused Alexis, with injuries becoming especially bad about 10 days before the 911 call.
One time, Hans stabbed Alexis in the ankle with a steak knife, Canda quoted Aulii.
When Aulii urged Poouahi to get treatment for the girl, she refused, Aulii told Canda.
A medical report said Alexis was severely dehydrated and malnourished, as well as having areas of dead tissue and other injuries, Canda said.
Both Damerville and police said yesterday the case is not closed, and additional defendants could be indicted.
Damerville said Poouahi was not indicted first as a strategy to get her to accept a plea bargain and testify against others.
"I do things one piece at a time instead of trying to swallow the whole pie at one time," he explained.
Besides the attempted-murder charge, Poouahi also was indicted for endangering the welfare of a minor, assault, kidnapping and terroristic threatening.