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Thursday, June 8, 2000

Victims’ families
urge long sentence for
confessed killer

By Debra Barayuga


The state expects to seek a minimum term of at least 50 to 70 years imprisonment for a man who took responsibility for the murders of two Waialua men, helping dispose of their bodies and helping bury a third.

Judge Victoria Marks sentenced Benjamin Tandal Jr., 21, yesterday to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in the 1997 shooting deaths of Tranquilino Bati Jr., Steve Tozon and helping hide Paris France's body. The murders stemmed from drug-related disputes.

While Tandal received a mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment for his use of a firearm, its likely the Hawaii Paroling Authority will set a much higher minimum term, said Deputy Prosecutor Marcus Sierra.

"Based on his executing two people, desecrating their bodies and concealing the body of a third, (Tandal) can't expect to be walking the streets after 15 years," Sierra said.

Tandal yesterday made no statement to the court or to the families of the victims present in the courtroom. His attorney, Nelson Goo, apologized on his behalf. Goo could not be reached later for comment.

Family members of the victims were much more vocal.

In a letter written by Mary Ann Tozon, Tozon's mother and read by Sierra, she told Tandal that he should "stay in prison until you rot."

His "cold and calculated acts" have robbed her of her only son, devastated the lives of her son's widow and 17-year-old daughter, and numerous aunties, uncles and cousins.

"I have no body to lay to rest because you saw fit to drop my child like garbage into the ocean," she wrote.

In addition to the murders, Tandal pleaded guilty to exhuming the bodies of Tozon and Bati and dumping their remains into the ocean.

"He was my son, he was not a perfect child but he was loved," Sierra read from Tozon's letter.

Marie Medina last heard from her only child, Tranquilino Bati Jr. on Mother's Day 1997.

"Jun" was calling to wish her a "Happy Mother's Day" and express how much he loved and missed her, she wrote in a letter to the court.

When her August birthday came and went without a call from him, Medina, living in California, knew something was wrong. She flew to Honolulu in October 1997 and filed a missing-person report with police.

It wasn't until August 1999 she heard from a friend in Hawaii about news accounts detailing her son's killing by Tandal and other codefendants.

"I only hope and pray that the death of my son will be given justice and the killers will be meted the punishment they deserve," Medina wrote. "That will be the only compensation for the loss of my only son, Jun."

Bati left behind three children, ages 4, 6 and 8.

Quantile France, sister of Paris France, addressed Tandal in court, asking how he could have done what he did to her brother.

"You guys were friends ... he trusted you," Sierra quoted France as saying.

Tandal had pleaded guilty to digging a hole and burying France, who was shot to death at the hands of co-defendant Edward Vidal, apparently because he was talking about the Tozon and Bati killings.

Vidal pleaded guilty to France's murder last month and will be sentenced Aug. 18. Another co-defendant, Styran Rivera, who pleaded guilty in the deaths of Tozon and France, also awaits sentencing.

France's remains were recovered last year in a Waialua cane field.

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