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Handshake led to stabbing


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POSTED: Saturday, May 09, 2009

RJ Ham said he did not intend to stab or kill anyone outside a store near Kuhio Park Terrace in Kalihi on Christmas night 2007, and he offered an apology to the family of the victim.

Ham, 25, is standing trial in state court for second-degree murder for the stabbing death of Fusitogamala Savea in front of Sunny Mart on North School Street. He said he stabbed Savea, 18, in self-defense.

Through a Chuukese interpreter, Ham said he went to Sunny Mart to look for his uncle, with whom he had been drinking earlier in the evening. When he found his uncle sitting on a concrete wall in front of the market, he said two boys had their hands on his uncle and were holding him down.

Ham said after he told the boys the man was his uncle, they approached him and shook his hand. Then he said the boys punched him, knocking him to the ground.

When he got up, Ham said he took out a kitchen knife he had in his pants and held it up to scare off the boys. He said he had the knife because he intended to go fishing later.

He said Savea, the larger of the two boys, jumped on him as he was holding out the knife.

The Honolulu medical examiner said the knife punctured Savea's heart, diaphragm and liver.

The other boy, Teu Malivao, Savea's cousin who was 14 years old at the time, told police Savea chased after Ham but later collapsed.

The stabbing happened just after midnight Dec. 26. An ambulance took Savea to the Queen's Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Malivao told police Ham stabbed his cousin after the two got into an argument over the handshake.

Savea's death prompted Micronesian community leaders to attend his funeral for a ritual apology. The ritual is part of both Micronesian and Samoan cultures.

The nonjury trial resumes Friday with closing arguments.