Three-strikes law nets killer at least 30 years


POSTED: Saturday, February 07, 2009

Alapeti Siuanu Tunoa Jr. hit his former girlfriend with the butt of a shotgun so hard that the stock of the gun started breaking apart, according to witness accounts. He hit her so many times and with such force that they said it looked like someone chopping wood or driving a stake into the ground with a sledgehammer.

;  Tunoa, 31, pleaded guilty yesterday in Circuit Court to murder in the Jan. 16, 2008, bludgeoning death of 29-year-old Janel Tupuola. He also pleaded guilty to other charges including those for threatening a 69-year-old man who tried to intervene, then beating him unconscious with the shotgun.

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle described Tunoa's actions as inhuman and barbarous.

“;This is a case of domestic violence at a level of brutality that has shocked the conscience of our community,”; he said.

Tupuola's mother said Tunoa killed her daughter in a public roadway and prevented witnesses from intervening after Tupuola found the strength to leave Tunoa to live a better life.

“;She did not deserve to die that way,”; said Maile Badajos.

Circuit Judge Randal Lee sentenced Tunoa to the mandatory life prison term with the possibility for parole for second-degree murder. And according to the terms of Tunoa's plea agreement, Lee ordered Tunoa to serve at least 30 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

;[Preview]  Vicious Murderer Given Life Sentence

Alapeti Tunoa was given a sentence of 30 years to life Friday for the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend Janel Tupuola—mother of four—in Kailua 13 months ago.

Watch  ]


The Hawaii Paroling Authority can impose a higher minimum, and Carlisle said he will ask the parole board to impose a minimum of between 100 and 200 years.


Lee imposed the 30-year minimum because Tunoa agreed to be sentenced as a habitual violent offender under the state's three-strikes sentencing law.

“;What he got, he deserved it. I hope that he never comes out again so he can't hurt anybody else,”; said Kealii Toelupe, 15, Tupuola's oldest son.

Tunoa's lawyer Jason Burks said his client agreed to be sentenced as a habitual violent offender in exchange for the state agreeing not to seek an extended sentence of life in prison without parole.

And he points out that even if Tunoa had gone to trial and was convicted of a lesser crime, he would have still been eligible for life in prison under three-strikes sentencing because of two prior robbery convictions. And the judge could have imposed a mandatory minimum longer than 30 years.

This is the first application of the three-strikes law, which took effect in 2006. The law—which calls for sentences of between 30 years and life for a person convicted of three separated violent felonies—has an automatic repeal date of July 1, 2011. But there are proposals in the state Legislature seeking to repeal the law this year.

Carlisle said the law is necessary for cases like Tunoa's, and without it, Tunoa would have been eligible for a mandatory minimum of 20 years.

In 2007 the average minimum the Hawaii Paroling Authority imposed in murder cases was 54 years, according to research conducted by Carlisle's office.

Carlisle points out that without a court-ordered mandatory minimum, a murder convict can ask for a reduction in the minimum imposed by the Hawaii Paroling Authority after serving one-third of it—or 18 years of the average parole board minimum.