Hyacinth Poouahi, shown in a police mug shot, is charged with attempted murder.
Child abuse suspect free
Without more funds for psychiatric exam, child abuse suspect free for now
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The Big Island prosecutor is having trouble finding a psychiatrist to examine a woman accused of abusing a 10-year-old girl two years ago.
The problem: The state will pay only $540 for the psychiatric work-up in the case, which comes with about 1,000 pages of documents.
The accused, Hyacinth Poouahi, remains free on $25,000 bail, but the criminal case against her remains stalled until she can be adjudged mentally fit to stand trial. Her lawyer says she hears voices that tell her to harm herself.
In February 2005, authorities removed a girl from Poouahi's custody who had broken bones and other injuries, including a missing lip and rotting flesh.
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HILO » The Hawaii County Prosecutor's Office is seeking a psychiatrist for an opinion on whether alleged child abuser Hyacinth Poouahi is mentally fit to stand trial on charges of attempted murder and related offenses.
In March, Poouahi's attorney, Keith Shigetomi, revealed that she was hearing voices telling her to harm herself. Two psychologists were found to examine her, but a psychiatrist is also needed, Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said.
Poouahi was charged in December 2005 with attempted murder by omitting proper care. That followed a 911 call from Poouahi on Feb. 7, 2005, which led authorities to find the 10-year-old girl with rotting flesh, part of her upper lip missing, broken bones and other injuries.
Poouahi is free on $25,000 bail.
While the criminal case against Poouahi is stalled, documents in a lawsuit against Poouahi indicate that Keonepoko Elementary School helped the girl's mother, Crystal Lehman, in filling out papers in November 2004 to place the girl with Poouahi, an acquaintance.
Opposing documents dispute that there was a way to know in 2004 whether Poouahi was fit to serve as a caregiver.
In the criminal case, Damerville told Judge Glen Hara in a telephone conference Thursday that no psychiatrist had been found on the Big Island, and he would have to search among doctors in Honolulu.
The problem is that the state will pay only a lump sum of $540 for the examination, which in Poouahi's case also includes reading 1,000 pages of reports, Damerville said.
In a document, Dr. Dennis Donovan, one of the psychologists examining Poouahi, expressed surprise at being given 1,000 pages to read.
The other psychologist, Dr. Thomas Cunningham, said the information was incomplete, lacking some medical reports.
In the lawsuit, the girl's father, Ronnie Cabanting, and his father, Bienvenido Cabanting, sued Poouahi and the state Departments of Education and Human Services.
The suit, filed Feb. 5 by attorney Arthur Park, says Lehman told Keonepoko School in 2004 she could not care for her daughter and wanted to place her with a "nonrelative caretaker."
The school helped Lehman complete a form so the girl could live with Poouahi, her boyfriend, Joseph Soares, and five other children, the suit says.
The Department of Education "knew or should have known that (the girl) was at risk of harm and failed to take responsible steps to protect her," the suit says. In November and December 2004, the girl told school representatives she was being abused, the suit says. She missed school 20 or more days in a two-month period, but the school failed to inform the Department of Social Services, as procedures required, the suit says.
But Deputy Attorney General Randolph Slaton responded by saying that the girl was not in the custody of the Departments of Education or Human Services, and they had no way of foreseeing the girl's injuries.
The suit says the school failed to inform the Cabantings when the girl went to live with Poouahi. But it also says the girl visited with her father and grandfather from 1998 to October 2004, just before living with Poouahi.
Slaton responded, "For plaintiff Ronnie Cabanting to claim that it is reasonable that he did not know where his daughter was for three months is not believable. If he actually did not know where she was, then he himself was negligent as a parent."
Now 12, the girl is living in the temporary custody of her grandparents Bienvenido and Kathy Cabanting. The girl "will receive medical treatment for the majority or remainder of her life," the suit says.