Murder suspect hurt crash victim before
Court papers show the suspect in a road rage case allegedly beat his ex-girlfriend
HILO » A Big Island man arrested in connection with a reportedly deliberate car crash in West Hawaii that killed two women and injured a third had allegedly punched and kicked one of the victims, sending her to the hospital, court documents say.
The suspect, Vernon Costa, 41, of Puna, also used methamphetamine, his ex-girlfriend Janelle Nardin said in the documents.
Police have until this afternoon to decide whether to charge Costa for the Sunday morning deaths of Pua Lei Santa Isabel, 26, and Casey Ann Swain, 35, as well as injuries to Nardin, 19, all of Hilo.
Costa was arrested Monday afternoon for investigation of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and attempted murder. Police have 48 hours from the arrest to file charges.
Police said yesterday that the 1987 Honda in which the women were riding was struck from behind by a pickup truck apparently belonging to Costa at 12:11 a.m. Sunday near the 23-mile-marker of Mamalahoa Highway, according to a 911 cell phone call from the Honda at the time.
Five miles down the road toward Waimea, the Honda went off the road, and two of the women in the car were thrown from it.
An autopsy Monday indicated Santa Isabel died instantly from head, neck, chest, and rib injuries, police said. Swain had a severe head injury and a broken right leg and died at the scene.
Police have withheld Nardin's name, but it was available through a temporary restraining order that she filed against Costa in February.
In the application for it, Nardin said she had been dating Costa for six months ending in December. "The whole time he has been abusive to me," she alleged in the documents.
"On Dec. 22, 2005, we had a big argument and I tried to get away but he chased me down the road and punched me in my face and then kicked me in my face about five times and then he ran," she said.
"I ended up in the hospital with two black eyes. My nose was broken. I couldn't open my jaw and I had a huge lump on my forehead," she said.
Another time, he slammed her into washing machines at a laundry.
Nardin said she was filing the restraining order to protect a 47-year-old man who was "helping me with a place to stay."
Costa was "going to kill (the friend) because Vernon wants no one to help me so I'll come with him to his house and live with him, but he always tells my friend he (is) going to bust my friend's jaw," she said in the documents.
In response to a question about drugs on the restraining order form, Nardin answered, "Yes, drug problem with ice," without further comment. Police have not said whether methamphetamine figured in the Sunday attack on the women.
The restraining order was dissolved by the Family Court when Nardin did not appear at a hearing in March.
In another case in 1999, a woman not connected with the Sunday attack filed a restraining order against Costa, who was angry at her brother. "He told me he was going to blow me and my family up," she told the court.
Police are continuing the investigation of the Sunday crash, asking for the public's help in identifying two "good Samaritans," a motorist who stopped at the scene to offer assistance and a second one who gave the mildly injured Nardin a ride to North Hawaii Community Hospital for treatment.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 935-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 329-8181.