'Ice' said to be fatal crash factor
KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii » Janelle Nardin, who survived a Kona car crash in which two other women were killed while being chased by murder suspect Vernon Costa, testified yesterday that all three women were under the influence of methamphetamine during the chase.
Nardin, 20, also testified that the crash took place some moments after the women's car was rammed by a truck driven by Costa, and not at the same time.
Nardin's testimony came during a preliminary hearing in Kona District Court to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Costa for murder and related charges in the death of car driver Pua Lei Santa Isabel, 26, and passenger Casey Ann Swain, 35.
The hearing lasted only 40 minutes and further testimony is scheduled for Aug. 15.
Nardin was a witness for the prosecution, since they must demonstrate that Costa should be held for the alleged offenses.
But under cross-examination by defense attorney Robert Kim, Nardin revealed the information on the women using "ice," including Santa Isabel, who was driving, and that the ramming by the truck was not the immediate cause of the crash.
That information could eventually raise doubt in jurors' minds about whether Costa caused the death of the women.
However, a police 911 tape indicated a witness saw a truck, apparently driven by Costa, chasing the women's car at up to 100 miles per hour. Cell phone 911 calls by Nardin during the case indicated that the women feared for their lives.
Kim filed a motion seeking to preserve blood samples from Santa Isabel and Swain, which allegedly show the women had ice in their bodies.
"The presence of drugs in the driver of the vehicle is a critical element in this case involving the car crash in which the decedents died," Kim's motion says. A hearing on the motion will be held Aug. 7 before Distinct Judge Joseph Florendo.