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Man accused in shooting described as caring


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POSTED: Friday, December 11, 2009

Seventy-one-year-old Robert Yagi had tended daily to his terminally ill wife's needs and kept her company since she was hospitalized in October.

Now he faces a charge of attempted murder after allegedly firing a plastic flare gun at her Tuesday night.

A police affidavit filed with the court to support the charge says Yagi “;may have tried to end his life at the same time using another loaded orange flare gun”; loaded with 12-gauge buckshot.

His wife, Leatrice, suffered only minor injuries when she was shot as she lay in her hospital bed at Castle Medical Center.

Prosecutors charged Yagi yesterday with second-degree attempted murder. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. His bail was set at $50,000.

Kailua residents said they were shocked to learn their neighbor is accused of shooting his wife, describing him as a nice man who was devoted to her and his family.

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“;They were inseparable within the last five years,”; said a neighbor of 35 years, who asked not to be named. “;They were always together doing things.

“;It's shocking because he's not that type of person,”; he said, adding Yagi did not display any violent tendencies.

“;Maybe he was trying to help her, I don't know,”; he said.

Daeja Fernandez, who lives across the street from the Yagis, said, “;They seemed like a happy family.”;

She said Leatrice Yagi could be seen picking avocados and mangoes up until a few months ago, and was not aware she was terminally ill.

She said of the shooting, “;I don't think that it was malicious.”;

A Castle nurse said she heard a loud bang, went into Leatrice Yagi's room and saw smoke and smelled an odor similar to firecrackers, the court document said. She asked Yagi, who was standing at his wife's bedside, what happened, but he did not reply.

Another nurse asked Leatrice Yagi what happened, to which she reportedly replied, “;My husband shot me,”; the affidavit said.

The nurse found black marks on her face and blanket and red marks on her right upper chest.

The nursing staff detained Yagi until a hospital security guard arrived, who recovered a brown paper bag inside a white plastic bag containing two flare guns and a 12-gauge shotgun shell.

Police did not provide a motive for the shooting, but Scott Foster, spokesman for the Hawaii Death with Dignity Society, believes Yagi was trying to end his wife's suffering.

“;When I saw it (on the news), I knew exactly what I was hearing,”; he said. “;We hear it all the time all over the world, rich people, poor people, people in pain, people suffering.”;

He said Hawaii came close in 2002 to passing a law to allow assisted suicide. The so-called Death with Dignity bill died when three state senators changed their votes at the last minute following intense lobbying by opponents.

He said the group has not recently attempted to move another bill to legalize euthanasia because of the thousands of dollars it costs to lobby for such a law.