Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Man pleads not guilty in
triple-murder case

By Debra Barayuga


The attorney for a Waialua man accused of the murders of three missing men says his client is innocent.

"I'm confident we can show he did not order anyone's death," said Peter Roberts, attorney for Styran Rivera, 36. "I feel confident we can easily prove he didn't do the killings."

Rivera waived indictment and pleaded not guilty yesterday to three charges of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree murder and hindering prosecution. He was charged Thursday with the murders of Steve Tozon, Tranquilino Bati Jr. and Paris France. Trial for Rivera was set for the week of March 20.

Authorities have said they believe the deaths were drug-related. Deputy Prosecutor Marcus Sierra said he is unable to comment on the case because the investigation is ongoing.

Roberts said his client is not a "big drug dealer" but dealt drugs on and off on his own, not as head of an organization. He said Rivera was a cockfighter and also ran an auto detail business.

Roberts also said the disappearances of the three men were not drug-related but declined to go into detail so as not to implicate other defendants.

Benjamin Tandal, 20, and Edward Vidal Jr., 33, Rivera's brother-in-law, were indicted earlier by a grand jury in connection with Tozon and Bati's deaths.

Court affidavits say a witness told police Tandal shot Tozon and Bati outside Rivera's Waialua home in June 1997. Police also were told that Rivera allegedly had ordered the hits.

Rivera is the only one so far charged with France's disappearance but Roberts said he expects more indictments soon.

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