Thursday, February 11, 1999

"Ellie" Wimberly, pictured before
a drug addiction transformed her.

‘Ice’ turned
woman’s life into
a nightmare

When she was killed,
there was no water or
power in her home

By Rod Ohira


Eleanor "Ellie" Wimberly was a petite, attractive woman whose clothing and home furnishings once reflected the lifestyle of a bon vivant.

But a crystal methamphetamine addiction transformed life into a living hell.

Wimberly's tragic fall from grace ended abruptly on Feb. 3, when she was shot to death in her Waiau residence at 98-442 Hoono St.

At the time of her death, Wimberly didn't even have running water or electricity in her home. Service had been discontinued two months earlier for nonpayment of bills.

"I was bringing water in big jugs just to flush toilets and wash dishes," said Duane Sato, her boyfriend, who made several daily one-hour runs on his bicycle to his parents' Pearl City home to pick up water and food.

"It was really hard for her because of the style of living she had before, but I told her God would help us."

Since they had no money, he and Wimberly traded personal property for crystal meth, Sato said.

"The ending part was real bad," he said. "I was collecting rain water to flush the toilets and she wasn't eating good, living mostly on cereal."

Wimberly, 43, had other problems, too.

She was concerned about her March 15 trial for drug offenses stemming from a November 1997 bust at the Hoono Street residence, owned by her mother, and was upset at not being accepted last month as a Drug Court candidate, Sato said.

"She craved ice (crystal meth) but for her girl, she wanted to quit," Sato said, referring to Wimberly's 8-year-old daughter, who was taken from her by Child Protective Services.

"Her hope was to get her daughter back. Whenever she visited her, it had to be supervised and she couldn't handle that.

Eleanor "Ellie" Wimberly has fun with a friend in this
picture taken before an addiction to crystal meth destroyed her
life. "In her heyday, I imagine she was like a ballerina," says
her lawyer, Louis Michael Ching, likening her appearance
and vitality in those days to Audrey Hepburn.

"So when Drug Court refused her, she kind of like gave up."

Louis Michael Ching, Wimberly's attorney, believes his client sincerely wanted help and was assisting her in finding a treatment program.

"From my point of view, she had already hit rock bottom," Ching said. "You can rehabilitate people who hit rock bottom because they're no longer in denial.

"She was ready to change. You know people are not ready when they don't cooperate but she showed up for every appointment and hearing. One time, she was an hour late but she called to tell us her car had broken down."

Ching and Sato both agree that despite her desperate situation, Wimberly maintained a sense of dignity.

"In her heyday, I imagine she was like a ballerina," Ching said. "Her physical appearance and vitality might have reminded someone like Audrey Hepburn.

"She was very soft-spoken but well-spoken, very caring. Her clothes were worn but she always did her best to dress for court and that showed me she cared."

People always took advantage of Wimberly's kindness, said Sato, 39.

"She'd let them stay at her house and they'd steal stuff from her -- jewelry, clothing, lamps and even underwear. There were four people in the back house near the end who kept promising to pay her rent but never did.

"Even if someone ripped her off, she'd forgive them the next day."Sato, who has not worked since he fractured both hands in a construction fall several years ago, met Wimberly about two years ago at a friend's house. They began dating and he moved in with her about four months ago.

Wimberly was always reluctant to talk about her past, Sato said.

"I know she was born in Japan and moved here when she was real young," he said. "She had a lot of photo albums but wouldn't let me see them. She didn't want to show me how she looked before.

"Ellie spent a lot of time in her room, down on everything. I'd see her crying and she would ask me to get her something to smoke in that soft voice. I traded things for drugs.

"But there was also a cheerful, happy Ellie, always helping people," he said.

"I loved her and wanted to stick with her because she had nobody else. We used to always talk about me fixing the yard and making the house look good again."

Wimberly was killed while Sato was at his parents' home picking up food and contacting his attorney.

"When I came home (on the night Wimberly was shot), the house was locked. I pounded and pounded on the door."

There was only one key for the house and he didn't take it, Sato said, "because Ellie was always home."

Sato broke into the house and found Wimberly bleeding in the bathroom.

"I kept yelling 'Ellie, Ellie I love you' and I saw something like a smile on her face," he said.

"I never told her enough that I loved her."

Police have charged 29-year-old Matthew James Clement, who lived several houses away from Wimberly, with murder. A preliminary hearing is scheduled today in District Court.

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