Mistaken identity is alleged in killing


POSTED: Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tittleman Fauatea might have mistaken Waianae High School teacher Asa Yamashita for another woman when he allegedly stabbed her multiple times at Ewa Town Center in February, according to the report of one of three court-appointed experts who examined him.

Psychologist Stephen Gainsley said the woman resembles Yamashita, spurned Fauatea's past advances and works in a barbershop near where Yamashita was sitting when she was stabbed.

Fauatea's lawyer, Dean Young, dismisses that as speculation and said the Feb. 27 attack was purely random.

“;That lady has never come up before. I think it's just the opinion being fabricated by the doctor,”; Young said.

Fauatea, 25, is awaiting trial in state court for second-degree murder.

Yamashita, 43, died from stab wounds to her heart and lungs.

Fauatea was in court yesterday for a hearing to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. A state judge postponed the hearing to next month when the third of the three experts will be available to testify for the defense about his examination of Fauatea.

Dr. Martin Blinder is the only one of the three experts to conclude that Fauatea is unfit to stand trial. He based his opinion on a single interview with Fauatea in May. Blinder is also the only expert to conclude that Fauatea attacked Yamashita because he was experiencing psychosis.

Gainsley and psychologist Richard Kappenberg conclude in their reports that Fauatea is fit to stand trial for murder. They also conclude, based on multiple interviews with Fauatea, as well as with people who have treated and observed him and on their review of his medical records, that even if Fauatea was experiencing symptoms of mental illness at the time of the attack, the symptoms did not impair his ability to judge right from wrong or prevent him from rationally carrying out the attack.

Fauatea has a history of mental illness and violent and criminal behavior. In 2008 he went to the Hawaii State Hospital, where he attacked other patients after being charged with harassment and trespassing.

Fauatea did not discuss details of the attack with any of the experts. Gainsley concludes Fauatea is consciously choosing to remain silent out of fear of implicating himself. He also concludes that is why he is not cooperating with his lawyer.

Police said witnesses saw Fauatea stab Yamashita and can detail his actions before, during and after the attack.

Young believes Fauatea is unfit to stand trial because he unable to assist in his own defense because of his mental illness.

“;Some of the doctors are not fully appreciating his disability at this point,”; Young said.