Drifter is ruled insane in Kaloko-Honokohau killing
The widow of a ranger shot in 1999 says the ruling makes it difficult to move on
After waiting seven years for justice, the family of a Big Island park ranger who was shot and killed by a drifter was deeply disturbed yesterday that the killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
"Definitely it was a blow to us," said Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell, widow of park ranger Steve Makuakane-Jerrell. "It's not the kind of verdict that anybody wants, not especially when you have someone who committed such a brutal and violent crime."
Eugene F. Boyce III fatally shot Makuakane-Jerrell Dec. 12, 1999, at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. The ranger was investigating complaints against Boyce's three dogs.
After a struggle, Boyce gained control over the ranger's semiautomatic handgun and shot him twice, once in the forehead, piercing his brain, and again in the right arm, according to testimony.
U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway found the 37-year-old Boyce not guilty only by reason of insanity following a five-hour nonjury trial. The verdict applies on all three charges of murder of a federal government employee engaged in official duties, using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
"Regardless of the fact that the doctors would say he's schizophrenic, I do have a problem with 'not guilty by reason of insanity,'" said Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell, a former law enforcement park ranger. "It should be guilty and insane."
A Federal Bureau of Prisons psychologist testified for the defense that Boyce suffered from paranoia and schizophrenia, and could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts due to his psychotic state, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson said.
Sorenson said it was a problem trying to overcome the government's own psychologist. "In this instance, you have what is viewed as an impartial psychiatric and mental health entity," Sorenson said.
The psychologist testified Boyce believed the ranger was trying to kill him and his dogs.
Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell said: "The 'not guilty by reason of insanity' means the burden of proof is on Boyce, yet we have to be there every time there's a hearing of any kind to be sure he won't get out, so it's still a burden.
"You don't go on with your life, not with a verdict like that," she said.
It has been tough these past seven years on the family of Steve Makuakane-Jerrell.
"No matter how long it's been, it's not any easier," Joni Mae Makuakane-Jerrell said. "We think of him every day.
"We think of all the things he's missed," she said of herself and her children, now 22, 23 and 30. "He never got to see the children graduate from high school. He never got to see our son get married."
Sorenson said he will ask for Boyce's continued detention Nov. 20 at a custody hearing and would continue "fighting for detention as long as he comes up for review."
Boyce has been held at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. He will be remanded to the Bureau of Prisons for a mental health study to see whether he poses a risk of danger to people or property, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a written statement.