Big Island caretaker pleads guilty to assault
Big Island woman’s charge of attempted murder dropped
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HILO » Big Island resident Hyacinth Poouahi, accused of abusing a 10-year-old girl in her care in 2005, yesterday pleaded guilty to four charges in the case, including assault.
The plea agreement allowed her to avoid a charge of attempted murder.
The girl spent six weeks in a coma and is still recovering.
In a tearful statement in court, Poouahi admitted failing to stop unnamed "other persons" from hurting the girl, who suffered from two severe disorders.
Her lawyer said she did not cause any serious injuries to the girl herself.
Additional details are expected to come out when Poouahi is sentenced Aug. 27.
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HILO » Big Island resident Hyacinth Poouahi, accused of the 2005 attempted murder of a 10-year-old girl who eventually spent six weeks in a coma, pleaded guilty to four other charges yesterday in exchange for the prosecution dropping the attempted-murder charge.
The girl, now 13, had been abandoned by her mother in Poouahi's care three months before the injuries were discovered. Poouahi eventually called for county paramedics, who found the girl with multiple injuries and rotting flesh, especially where part of her upper lip was missing.
She has been recovering gradually since coming out of the coma.
Judge Glen Hara will sentence Poouahi on Aug. 27 for endangering the welfare of a minor, which carries a sentence of five years; first-degree assault, with a penalty of 10 years; unlawful imprisonment, with a penalty of five years; and first-degree terroristic threatening, with a penalty of five years. Possible fines for the offenses total $55,000.
There is no minimum sentence, and Poouahi could theoretically receive probation.
Poouahi and her attorney, Keith Shigetomi, described factors about the case that have received little or no public attention.
Poouahi, 40, read a statement to the judge accepting responsibility for her actions, but her words were nearly impossible to understand because she was in tears and her voice was breaking up throughout the reading.
Shigetomi provided a copy of her statement later.
"While (the girl) was in my care, I became aware that other persons were injuring her, and while I tried to, I did not effectively prevent (the girl) from being injured," the statement said.
The original attempted-murder charge clearly stated that it was "by omission," meaning that someone else allegedly tried to kill the girl, and Poouahi failed to stop it.
Shigetomi said the same was true of the assault charge against her. She failed to stop the assault by another person, he said.
Shigetomi was not free to name that person or those persons.
But a 2005 affidavit of Detective Juergen Canda included statements made by one of Poouahi's daughters, 15 at the time.
The daughter said the girl was the victim of physical abuse by the daughter's brother, then 13, her mother (Poouahi) and her mother's common-law husband.
The daughter said her brother had stabbed the girl with a knife.
"She said that she begged her mother to seek medical treatment for (the girl), but that her mother refused," Canda wrote.
Shigetomi said Poouahi has been diagnosed with "borderline intellectual function," meaning she is on the edge of being retarded. She is not able to respond appropriately in a stressful situation, he said.
Poouahi suffered "paralyzing fear" about the home situation being revealed, he said.
Although she did not stop the injuries to the girl in her care, she did not cause any of the major injuries, he said.
Poouahi told the judge, "I am extremely sorry" that she did not stop injuries to the girl.
Poouahi said little more outside the court, but in a highly unusual act, she shook hands with reporters and photographers questioning Shigetomi.