Description of 'hell ride' initiates murder trial
A witness recounts being forced to drive the suspect back to his sister's house
A Kaneohe man told three women that he stabbed to death a friend, retired sumo wrestler Percy Kipapa, for fooling around with the man's girlfriend and taking something belonging to him.
Kealiiokalani Meheula, 31, went on trial yesterday in Circuit Court, accused of second-degree murder in the stabbing in Kahaluu.
On May 16, 2005, Donna Freitas and Meheula's mother, Venda, were visiting at the Okana Road home of Lori Rodrigues when Meheula entered the home, his T-shirt bloodstained and carrying what appeared to be a large hunting knife.
When Rodrigues asked what had happened, Meheula allegedly said, "I stabbed Percy." When a shocked Rodrigues asked him why, Meheula replied, "Oh, 'cause he was fooling around with my girlfriend."
Freitas, who knew the two men, testified yesterday that she went looking for Kipapa, 31, and found him unconscious behind the wheel of his idling pickup truck parked at the end of Rodrigues' winding driveway on Okana Road, but still breathing.
She could hear "gurgling sounds" emanating from him and tried to get him to respond. When he did not, she said she ran back to her car to call 911 only to find her cell phone battery was dead.
She was about to drive back to the house when out of nowhere, Meheula appeared and hit her passenger window, trying to get inside the locked car. Then his mother, Venda, opened Freitas' door, scrambled over her, let her son in and then ordered Freitas to drive him to his sister's house in Kaneohe.
"It was a hell ride from there," said Freitas, who noted that during the ride, Meheula commented that "it was the right thing that he had done." He also said something to the effect that Meheula had hurt his nieces, Freitas said, but did not elaborate. "It didn't make sense."
She said she was so spooked because during the entire ride, Meheula brandished a knife that was wrapped in a T-shirt and never blinked the whole time, staring at her, Freitas said.
"I really, really, really thought I was going to be next."
Defense attorney William Domingo did not give opening statements yesterday, reserving the right to give one later.
An autopsy determined later that Kipapa had bled to death. He suffered many defensive stab wounds to his hands, consistent with someone trying to ward off an attack, said Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim.
Meheula, who was dropped off at his sister's house by Freitas that night, later showed up at the Kaneohe Fire Station with what appeared to be a minor self-inflicted stab wound to his thigh, Kim said.
Kipapa's mother, Priscilla, said her "baby," the youngest of the Kipapas' three children, went to Japan shortly after he graduated in 1991 from Castle High School at the urging of Jesse "Takamiyama" Kuhaulua of Hawaii, the first foreigner to break into the centuries-old Japanese sport.
Her son, at 6 feet 4 inches and 410 pounds, attained the rank of "juryo" -- the second highest of six divisions in sumo -- and won two tournaments before he reluctantly retired in 1997 because of extensive injuries, she said. He was called "Daiki" in Japan, meaning "big joy," she said, "because he was always smiling."
Kipapa returned home to live at the family's home in Waikane Valley and worked various jobs, including managing a Waikiki restaurant, before his death. He met Meheula, a pig hunter who sought access to Waikane Valley, a couple of years earlier. The Kipapas, who own land in Waikane Valley, hold the key to the gate.