Friday, December 10, 1999

Prosecutor's office
Austin Tabag, seen in a birth picture
that was on his death announcement.

Man enters guilty plea
in infant son’s death

By Debra Barayuga


Prosecutor's office
Eugene Tabag, the father of Austin Tabag, has admitted to killing the boy.

A Nanakuli man awaiting trial in the death last year of his 3-month-old son has changed his plea.

With his trial set to start Monday, Eugene Tabag yesterday pleaded guilty as charged to second-degree murder in the death of his son Austin, who suffered a skull fracture May 31.

Tabag's attorney, deputy public defender William Jameson, declined comment at the request of his client.

In exchange for the guilty plea, the state and Tabag have agreed to a joint sentencing recommendation to the Hawaii Paroling Authority that he serve a minimum of 25 years before becoming eligible for parole, Deputy Prosecutor Victor Bakke said.

Under a statute governing sentencing for crimes against children, Tabag could have faced 15 years to life in prison. The state will not ask that he be held longer than 25 years, Bakke said.

However, it will be up to the parole board to decide how much time he will be required to serve before he can ask to be paroled.

Tabag yesterday also pleaded guilty to second-degree assault for injuries he caused in 1995 to Austin's older brother, Zeus. Prosecutors had planned to indict him for second-degree attempted murder, but agreed not to.

In that case, Tabag is accused of fracturing Zeus' skull by stomping on him when he was one month old. The child lived but suffers from developmental problems, Bakke said.

Tabag faces an open five-year term for injuring Zeus, with a mandatory one year and eight months, when sentenced before District Family Court Judge John Bryant on Jan. 24. He will serve the term concurrently with the term in the murder case.

Zeus and two other of Tabag's children are in the custody of their mother, Sabrina Doi. Tabag and Doi are not married.

While it is unknown whether Tabag was high at the time of Austin's death, the incident was crystal methamphetamine-related, Bakke said. Tabag told police he had smoked "ice" a few days before, and he tested positive within an hour of the incident. A pipe used to smoke the drug was found where he allegedly dropped his son.

Tabag initially said he dropped his son on his head in the bathroom by accident. He later said he dropped his son, picked him up and started hitting him.

An autopsy showed Austin suffered fractured ribs, a fractured spine, fractured collar bones, and a broken femur. "This kid was just destroyed," Bakke said.

In court yesterday, Tabag apologized for his actions and told his girlfriend and children he loved them.

He has been in prison since his arrest in June 1998, unable to post $100,000 bail.

Tabag differs from other recent child-abuse defendants -- such as Kimberly Pada and Jennifer Edwards -- because he admitted knowingly causing his son's death. "This guy walked in, said he did it and he was sorry and that's it," Bakke said, explaining that was one of the reasons the state entered into the agreement.

Tabag did not deflect blame for his son's injuries by saying he was under extreme emotional distress, was high or reckless.

Bakke said Tabag's case clearly gives the community notice that, while people find it hard to believe that anyone can intentionally kill their child, there are times when parents lose their tempers and kill.

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