Father says state failed to lock up boy suspect
Citing past crimes, the man says an Ewa Beach neighbor could still be alive
An Ewa Beach man had long worried that his son's petty crimes would lead to calamity one day.
His fears came true last weekend when the 15-year-old boy confessed to strangling a woman who lived across the street.
"I told him, 'Why did you do that for?'
"He said it was to please his friends," the father said yesterday, giving only his first name, Petelo.
The Star-Bulletin confirmed that he is the father of the suspect in the murder of 51-year-old Karen Ertell on Friday. The crime, which police described as well planned and executed, shocked residents of Akua Street, a quiet neighborhood at the end of Fort Weaver Road on Ewa Beach.
The father said he believes the killing could have been prevented, and blamed the state's juvenile services for not helping his son or locking him up sooner.
Prosecutors requested on Sunday night that Family Court waive its jurisdiction in the case so the teenager can be tried as an adult and receive a harsher sentence, said Honolulu police homicide Lt. Bill Kato.
Police have said that petition would cite murder, robbery, burglary, auto theft and other charges.
The father of a 15-year-old murder suspect says the killing of an Ewa Beach woman could have been avoided if law enforcement officials had listened to him and put his son in jail.
"He had a burglary in Pearl City. The policeman called me up to pick him up, and I told them, 'Why can't you guys lock him up?'" said the man, who gave only his first name, Petelo, in an interview yesterday.
"They said, 'We cannot because he is underage.'"
The man said he called police on Saturday night immediately after his son admitted to strangling Karen Ertell, 51, a day earlier and driving away in a Volvo she used for work. The father claimed that a Family Court counselor has been seeing his son for about 1 1/2 years, but the counselor did not discourage the teen from hanging out with a group of friends who rob stores and burglarize homes.
The boy, a Campbell High School student, had been scheduled to appear in court today for an unrelated home burglary in Ewa, Petelo said.
Derick Dahilig, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, which oversees the Office of Youth Services and other juvenile services, declined to comment on the case, citing privacy laws for minors.
Prosecutors will urge Family Court to waive jurisdiction in the case so the teenager can be tried as an adult and receive a harsher sentence, police homicide Lt. Bill Kato said yesterday. If convicted as a juvenile, the teen would serve a maximum of four years, police said.
Police have said the petition would cite murder, robbery, burglary, auto theft and other charges. Jim Fulton, a spokesman for the city Prosecutor's Office, said the request would carry the teen's criminal record and the seriousness of his offenses.
In a letter to the Star-Bulletin, Kevin Callahan, who identified himself as Ertell's boyfriend, called her murder "a premeditated, heinous act."
"She was attacked and killed. It was no accident," he wrote. "The Oahu community should be outraged at this brutal crime, especially the Ewa Beach community."
Callahan said Ertell, who owned Koko Crater Coffee Roasters in Kakaako, volunteered to work with children during her free time and "was the type of person the world needs more of."
Police found Ertell unresponsive in her Akua Street home at about 1 p.m. Friday afternoon. An autopsy determined she died from "asphyxia due to manual strangulation."
As investigators walked through the woman's home yesterday, area residents said the neighborhood had seen its share of petty crimes, but the murder surprised everyone and heightened security concerns.
"You haven't seen the kids play out on the street or anything," said Debbie Dominici, a longtime Ewa resident whose children once went trick-or-treating with the suspect's siblings. "They seemed like really nice kids when they first moved here."
Dominici said a neighborhood watch program started by her father a few years ago was stopped because crime was declining.
Petelo, a carpenter, said his son wants to finish high school and work with him. He said the boy regrets killing Ertell.
"He just wants to graduate and be like me," he said.