Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Defendant changes
plea, admits to
1997 killings

After denying a role in the
disappearance of three men,
a North Shore drug dealer
does an about-face

By Debra Barayuga


A North Shore man who had said he was not guilty of murdering three missing men has changed his plea in connection with two of the men.

In a hearing before Circuit Judge Victoria Marks yesterday, Styran Rivera, 36, agreed to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Steve Tozon and Paris France.

Under a plea agreement, Rivera has agreed to testify "truthfully, accurately and completely" as to everything that happened in their deaths, as well as the killings of Tranquilino Bati Jr. and John Wailehua-Hansen, who also disappeared in 1997, said deputy prosecutor Marcus Sierra.

Rivera had faced life without the possibility of parole before changing his plea. Now, if he fulfills the terms to the agreement, his maximum term would be life with the possibility of parole, Sierra said.

Rivera's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 28.

Rivera admitted to soliciting Benjamin Tandal, 20, and Rivera's brother-in-law, Edward Vidal Jr., 33, to help him kill Tozon. Rivera said Tozon had threatened him and his daughter a week earlier by putting a gun to their heads, Sierra said.

Rivera also admitted he went along with the idea to "knock off" France, who was a participant in the Tozon murder. France apparently had been talking too much about the Tozon incident, and the other men were afraid people would find out.

Rivera said that he and Vidal drove France to a deserted area in Waialua between October and December 1997 under the guise of going drinking and that Vidal pulled the trigger, Sierra said. More indictments in the France murder are expected soon, Sierra said.

Rivera's attorney, Peter Roberts, could not be reached for comment.

Rivera had waived indictment and pleaded not guilty to all five charges Monday. Roberts at the time said he was confident he could show his client did not order any hits on the missing men and did not commit the killings.

Tandal and Vidal Jr. also are charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of Tozon and Bati. They are scheduled to go to trial March 20.

Rivera also is awaiting sentencing on federal charges of selling drugs to an undercover officer. He faces a minimum of 47 months in federal prison when sentenced March 30 on the drug charges.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin