Wahiawa defendant says he killed to avoid death
A Wahiawa man accused of fatally slashing an Aiea man with a knife contends that he did it in self-defense.
Trial began in Circuit Court yesterday for Frank Sanes, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Bill Refilong, 21, outside the Star Karaoke lounge at the Waimalu Shopping Center on Dec. 1, 2005.
The confrontation apparently stemmed from "a hard look -- why you looking at me that way," exchange between Refilong's cousin Efraim Paulis and four men who had been singing karaoke and drinking at the bar, Deputy Public Defender Jerry Villanueva said.
During opening statements, Villanueva said Sanes and his cousin Alex Terno decided to leave the bar just before closing after words were exchanged with Refilong and his cousin. But as Sanes and Terno waited in the car for the rest of their party, Refilong and Paulis exited and the argument flared, with Paulis making threatening remarks, Villanueva said.
Sanes believed he saw a possible weapon in Paulis' hand and got out of the car armed with a large knife, Villanueva said. Terno also exited, wielding a sword about 3 feet long.
As the threats and posturing continued and patrons began spilling out of the bar, Sanes allegedly heard his cousin say "cut in." Thinking he was being attacked, Sanes turned and slashed behind him, cutting Refilong in his back, Villanueva said. Terno jumped back in the car and began driving off.
Afraid of having to face Refilong's companions by himself, Sanes twisted around as he felt someone grabbing him and slashed out again, Villanueva said. This time, he cut through Refilong's collarbone. Sanes ran after Terno as he drove off and jumped into the rear seat, the defense attorney said.
Emmanuel "Manny" Esteres, a cousin of Sanes who was with him that night, apparently was chased down by Refilong's family and beaten. Esteres, who lived nearby, escaped and fled home, where police located him after a homicide detective spotted and followed a trail of blood leading to the apartment.
"It would have been Frank Sanes killed that night if he didn't take action," Villanueva said.
Deputy prosecutor Kevin Takata said witnesses will testify that Refilong was unarmed that night and was not threatening anyone before he was killed.
Sanes approached Refilong from behind and "sliced" him from the back. The only thing that prevented the knife from going deeper was his spine and ribs, Takata said.
The second time, Sanes plunged the knife into the base of Refilong's neck, severing his carotid artery, jugular vein, clear through his collarbone and into the breast bone.
Three people -- Refilong's two cousins and a cousin of Sanes -- are expected to identify Sanes as the killer, Takata said. Sanes and Terno allegedly drove to Wahiawa and tossed the knife into Lake Wilson at the Wahiawa bridge. They threw their clothing into a trash can near Sanes' apartment. Sanes' shirt, stained with Refilong's blood, was found later.
If convicted, Sanes faces life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.