Big Isle police detail harrowing fatal ride
The victim says she and the two women who died were trying to escape
HILO » Pua Lei Santa Isabel drove at 90 to 100 mph through the darkness on narrow Mamalahoa Highway, her car repeatedly rammed from behind by a truck allegedly driven by the ex-boyfriend of one of her passengers, according to police documents.
That passenger, Janelle Nardin, told police she did not remember her former boyfriend, Vernon Costa, forcing the women's car off the road early Sunday, according to the documents. Santa Isabel, 26, and another passenger, 35-year-old Casey Ann Swain, were killed in the wreck, and Nardin, who turns 20 today, was injured.
A good Samaritan drove Nardin to North Hawaii Community Hospital where she told a nurse, "I don't want to die! Don't let me die!" according to a police report.
But when Detective Mark Haggerty told Nardin her friends were dead, "There was no reaction on her part," he wrote in a report.
Police documents filed yesterday in Hilo District Court to keep Costa in jail paint a picture of Nardin "cruising" several days in Kona, deciding to go "partying" in Hilo, then caught in a nightmare as her ex-boyfriend showed up.
Costa, 41, of Puna, was charged Wednesday with murder, attempted murder, possession of an "ice" pipe with drug residue in it, and numerous traffic violations.
A court appearance for him was postponed until Wednesday. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
While in Kona, Nardin was "messed up" partying, Haggerty wrote.
Deciding to go to Hilo for more partying, she arranged on Saturday night to go to a scenic point with friends where she would be picked up by a male friend from Waimea, she told Haggerty.
Costa was present when the Waimea friend took the call from Nardin, and he went looking for her in a borrowed truck, according to Haggerty.
When Nardin saw Costa at the scenic point, she was afraid.
"He threatens her, beats her up, and beats up the guys that she was with," Haggerty wrote.
The women drove away, all three in the front seat, Costa chasing them, according to police.
Nardin told Swain to get in back, then put on her seat belt.
She told police she did not know if the others fastened their seat belts.
Police said the others were killed when they were thrown from the car onto lava rocks.
Haggerty asked why the women did not stop their car. Nardin said they could not stop and that Costa would hurt her.
"She said that he chokes her until she passes out," Haggerty wrote.
Nardin said she couldn't remember the crash or going to the hospital.
Another officer told Haggerty that Costa flagged down a passing car and got a ride for himself and Nardin to the hospital.
Earlier this week, police said 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, and he was taken to Hilo Medical Center for surgery, police said.
A 38-year-old male suspect from Kailua-Kona was arrested for the alleged attack but was released pending investigation.