Killer asks family for forgiveness
A man who stabbed his girlfriend dozens of times could leave prison in 30 years
"Pakawanendak koma (Please forgive me)," Ronante Aquino said in Ilocano to the family of his girlfriend Zenaida Dumaslan for stabbing her to death last July in Pearl City.
But the words rang hollow to Dumaslan's cousin Vic Dumaslan because all he wanted to know was why Aquino killed her.
"We accepted him into our family and gatherings," said Vic Dumaslan. "Why did he do such a thing?"
Calling Aquino's conduct an "incredibly selfish act," Circuit Judge Steve Alm sentenced Aquino yesterday to a life term in prison with the possibility of parole and ordered him to pay $4,000 restitution to Dumaslan's family.
Aquino, 40, pleaded guilty in February to second-degree murder for killing Dumaslan by stabbing her 40 to 50 times in her Pearl City apartment. Under a plea agreement, he has agreed to serve no less than 30 years behind bars for intentionally stabbing Dumaslan to death while her 5-year-old son and her invalid father were at home.
While it was not clear what they had witnessed, the boy "probably saw and heard things no one, much less a 5-year-old, should have to see, hear or experience," said Deputy Prosecutor Rom Trader. "This was a senseless, mindless crime."
Besides the boy, who is now 6, Dumaslan was supporting three daughters, ages 7, 9 and 12, in the Philippines and had petitioned to have them join her here, family members said.
The couple had attended a family gathering the night before without incident and went back to Dumaslan's Hooli Street apartment, said deputy public defender Darcia Forester.
They began arguing about money, then about their relationship. The argument escalated and ended in brutality, she said, noting that Aquino was intoxicated at the time.
"I was drunk. I was blank. She was telling me words," Aquino said through an Ilocano interpreter, denying that he was afraid Dumaslan would leave him.
But that did not satisfy Alm, who tried to get Aquino to explain what really set him off.
"It's got to come from somewhere," Alm said. "A lot of people get drunk, and they don't stab people 40 to 50 times."
The only good that came out of this case was that Aquino "was of mind to appreciate the horror of the crime he committed" and took responsibility by pleading guilty, Trader said.
The 30-year term that Aquino has agreed to serve hopefully "will be a good start for the family to put this tragedy behind them," Trader said.
In his letter to the court, Aquino said he prays every day and knows that one day he will face God and Dumaslan and must ask them for forgiveness.
"I'm filled with great remorse. I really loved her so much, and I cared for her," he wrote. "But I can't bring her back, no matter what I do now."
Dumaslan family members said later that it was difficult to accept Aquino's apology, which was read to them by the interpreter and with Aquino standing with his back to them.
"We know God will do the rest," said Vic Dumaslan.
Zenaida Dumaslan had obtained a restraining order against Aquino in the past, noting that whenever he was drunk, "he don't know what he is doing."
She noted at the time that he physically and sexually abused her and felt afraid for herself and her then 3-year-old son. That no-contact court order remained in effect until March 2005.
Aquino turned himself in to Pearl City police early on July 22 and told officers he had killed his girlfriend. He escorted them to her apartment where police found Dumaslan's body in a pool of blood in the kitchen.