Car chase murder suspect loses bid
KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii » After eight months of sporadic hearings, Kona District Judge Joseph Florendo determined this week that there is enough evidence to continue holding Vernon E. Costa, 42, of Puna for trial on charges of murder, attempted murder and other offenses in the car crash deaths of two women July 15.
Costa allegedly chased three women in a Honda sedan with a borrowed Dodge pickup, bumping them from the rear at speeds of up to 100 mph. He allegedly was trying to get at crash survivor Janelle Nardin, his ex-girlfriend.
Moments before midnight, the women's car went off Mamalahoa Highway in West Hawaii, throwing the driver and a passenger from the car.
The victims were driver Pua Lei Santa Isabel, 26, and Casey Ann Swain, 35, both of Hilo. Passenger Nardin, now 21, was wearing a seat belt and survived.
Costa is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
A preliminary hearing held in sessions to determine if there were evidence that Costa committed the 13 charged offenses took an exceptionally long time, in part because witnesses called by defense attorney Robert Kim did not appear, even after Florendo issued warrants for their arrest.
Kim argued Thursday that the judge should not rule without hearing from two witnesses, and added that Nardin had testified she did not see Costa's face before the chase started, only the arm of a man she thought was Costa in a parked pickup.
Florendo answered that he did not want to delay the case anymore and that there was enough corroborating evidence to hold Costa for trial.