A woman, right, claiming to be the wife of Benjamin Grajeda, who was gunned down last May, visits the Kaneohe house where Grajeda was abducted by three men.
Killing, kidnapping called ‘monster case’
Police investigate the slaying as lawyers float theories of drug gangs and jealousy
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On the night of May 14, Kaneohe was rocked by the brazen shooting of Benjamin Grajeda on Kaneohe Bay Drive.
Following a massive manhunt, William Lee Freeman Jr. was arrested later that night in Haleiwa, and Jerrico Lindsey the next morning on the North Shore.
But because of the complexity of the case, which could feature allegations of a dispute between rival drug rings and a love triangle, the trial for the two men has been postponed from this month to the week of May 5.
Lindsey is charged with being the gunman who shot Grajeda a number of times. Freeman is charged with kidnapping Grajeda earlier that night. A third man believed to be involved in the case has not yet been arrested, according to police.
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The trial for two men charged in connection with the stunning fatal shooting of a 27-year-old man on Kaneohe Bay Drive last year has been postponed from this month as authorities continue investigating a complicated case that could feature allegations of rival mainland drug gangs and jealousy over a woman.
"This is a monster case, and it's required just a tremendous amount of investigative effort by HPD (Honolulu police)," city Deputy Prosecutor Rom Trader said.
Trader declined to discuss details of the prosecution's case for the trial, which has been pushed back until the week of May 5 and is expected to last several weeks before Circuit Judge Steven Alm.
"I'm sure it will be a hotly contested trial," Trader said.
One possible scenario for the shooting was that it was the result of a dispute between drug rings. Another scenario is that it was the result of an earlier shooting and a love triangle involving the accused gunman, his ex-girlfriend and the victim.
The trial will focus on the two Alabama-born defendants and the victim from California. The three, as well as the ex-girlfriend, have criminal records.
Benjamin Grajeda, the 27-year-old shooting victim from North Hollywood, Calif., had been kidnapped by three men from a Kaneohe home where he was staying and dumped into the trunk of a white four-door Ford Crown Victoria, according to police. Grajeda later got out of the trunk and tried to flee before he was gunned down on the roadway before onlookers at about 10 p.m. May 14.
Jerrico Lindsey, 27, is charged with being the lone gunman who fired a number of shots into the victim. He is also charged with firearm violations and terrorizing two bystanders at the shooting scene.
William Lee Freeman Jr., 36, is charged with kidnapping Grajeda and trying to help Lindsey escape. Freeman is accused of driving the car but is not charged with murder.
Following a massive manhunt, Freeman was arrested in Haleiwa the night of the shooting. Lindsey was arrested the next morning near Laniakea Beach.
The third man has not been arrested, police said.
Attorneys for the two men declined to discuss the defenses or details of the case, but Lindsey's lawyer, William Harrison, disputes the suggestion that the shooting was related to a drug gang war. Harrison said that while Grajeda was a member of a notorious Los Angeles gang, Lindsey was not a member of any gang.
Grajeda, who used several aliases and four different birth dates, was convicted of drug-related charges in California. Neighbors said he had moved into the Puuohalai Place apartment about five weeks before his death.
Lindsey has a criminal record in Alabama, where he was arrested in 2000 on suspicion of murder and aggravated assault in the fatal shooting of two men and wounding four others.
But Alabama prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to support the charges, and Lindsey was released.
According to the court files here, Lindsey's mother came to Hawaii in 1999 and has worked as a public schools special-education teacher, first on Maui and then Oahu. Lindsey followed his mother to Hawaii and has been part owner of Spotlight Fashionz, a Maui Mall store, according to Harrison and court records.
Freeman was employed as an accounts manager for a business in Mobile, Ala., according to court documents. He was on Maui for four or five days and at the Outrigger Maile Sky Court for three days before the shooting, the documents said.
His criminal record in Alabama includes a 90-day sentence to boot camp as a youthful offender in 1993 for first-degree robbery.
According to police testimony at a court hearing in the kidnapping-murder case here last year, Freeman identified Lindsey as the gunman and told police he was at Grajeda's home when Lindsey and a third man beat Grajeda.
Freeman said he and the others two drove off with Grajeda in the trunk of the car, but when Freeman felt the situation was getting out of hand, he hit the trunk release button, enabling Grajeda to escape, Detective Sheryl Sunia testified.
The detective said Lindsey got out of the car and chased Grajeda.
One lawyer in the case says a prelude to the killing might have been another shooting a day or so earlier.
Honolulu attorney Michael Green represents Lindsey's former girlfriend, who was on federal supervisory release in a drug case and was at Grajeda's home the night he was abducted, according to court records.
The 22-year-old former Maui resident was among 16 people charged in 2004 with drug counts involving what federal prosecutors said was a Maui crystal methamphetamine ring that distributed 20 pounds of the drug each month from Mexican sources.
The woman, who asked that her name not be used because she fears for her safety, pleaded guilty to a methamphetamine charge as part of a plea agreement. After federal prosecutors credited her with cooperating, she was sentenced in 2006 to the time she served behind bars in the case and placed on supervisory release for three years.
Green said his client had also been going out with Grajeda, but Green said he did not think it blossomed into a romance.
A day or so before the Kaneohe Bay Drive shooting, she was being harassed by several men, including Lindsey, Green said. When she turned to Grajeda for help and jumped into his car, Grajeda fired shots at them, the lawyer said.
"I think there was a jealousy thing," Green said.
He said the dispute might have initially started with "interest over her" but that he does not know whether it evolved into other matters.
Green said his client will be testifying at the trial.
Both defendants remain at Oahu Community Correctional Center unable to post bail. Lindsey's bail is $3 million. Freeman is held in lieu of $1 million bail.