Puna man is charged with murder in fatal crash
HILO » Big Island police charged Vernon E. Costa, 41, of Puna, with murder and attempted murder yesterday in the automobile deaths of two women and injuries to Costa's former girlfriend in an early Sunday crash police say was intentionally caused by Costa.
An initial appearance in Hilo District Court was set for today. Costa is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Police also revealed that when they arrested Costa Monday afternoon in the Eden Roc subdivision south of Hilo, 90 miles from the West Hawaii crash site, he told them he was recently attacked by a friend of one of the women killed.
Costa had "obvious injuries" on his face, was treated at the scene by paramedics and was then taken to Hilo Medical Center for surgery on his injuries, police said.
A 38-year-old male suspect from Kailua-Kona was arrested for the attack Monday evening but was released pending further investigation.
The two women killed on Mamalahoa Highway shortly after midnight Sunday when they were thrown from their 1987 Honda were previously identified as Pua Lei Santa Isabel, 26, the driver; and Carey Ann Swain, 35. Janelle Nardin, 19, who described herself in a court document as Costa's ex-girlfriend, was also in the car and escaped with minor injuries.
Costa was charged with first-degree murder for the two deaths in one case, second-degree murder for each of the two deaths, plus attempted murder in Nardin's case.
He was also charged with promoting a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Police also charged Costa with six traffic offenses, fraudulent use of a license plate, driving with a revoked license, a safety sticker violation, a weight tax violation, lack of auto insurance and failure to give aid.