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Thursday, November 9, 2000

Ex-prison guard
gets life sentences
in drug slayings

At sentencing, Rivera tells the victims'
families he is 'sorry for their great loss'

By Rod Ohira

Styran Rivera, a former state prison guard now wearing the green uniform of an inmate, stood next to his attorney, Dana Ishibashi, and began speaking.

"To the families," he said, without looking back toward the relatives of Steven Tozon and Paris France, whom he was convicted of killing, "I'm sorry for their great loss. They have my sympathy."

Rivera said it wasn't planned, and "I didn't tell anyone to kill them."

But Circuit Judge Victoria Marks yesterday sentenced Rivera to serve consecutive life terms with the possibility of parole.

"I wasn't there, I don't know what happened, but you know what happened," Marks said. "The bottom line is two people are gone."

Then referring to statements by Waialua High School teachers Juanita Sakamoto and Fred Lavarias about Rivera's contributions to athletics, Marks added: "You can be involved in all kinds of activities, it still doesn't justify taking another life."

Deputy Prosecutor Marcus Sierra sought the consecutive life terms.

Rivera had tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea to the two murders. France's body was recovered, but Tozon reportedly was dumped in the ocean.

Sierra read a statement yesterday from Tozon's 18-year-old daughter, Krystal Pia, to Rivera.

In part, the statement noted:

"You made everyone worry about where my dad was. Do you know what kind of sick and unimaginable things go through your head when someone you love is missing for three years? At first, I thought my dad wasn't calling me back because he didn't love me anymore.

"... I cry everyday for my dad wishing and hoping that somehow he could come back."

Apollo Suan, Tozon's uncle, told Rivera in court, "We one ohana. My sister, that's her only son. Of course, he's not perfect, but that no give anyone the right to dispose somebody -- there's no body, we don't know where he is.

"That really hurts."

The judge also ordered Rivera to pay $5,200 to France's family for funeral expenses.

Judge Marks also sentenced him to five years in prison for second-degree assault, a charge unrelated to the Waialua murders.

Rivera pleaded guilty to the January 1999 assault, which occurred at the Aloha Tower Marketplace.

Benjamin Tandal Jr. was sentenced in June to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in the 1997 shooting deaths of Tranquilino Bati Jr. and Tozon, and for helping to hide France's body.

Edward Vidal Jr., Rivera's brother-in-law, pleaded guilty to killing France and is serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

The killings were drug-related.

Rivera is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in federal court for drug-trafficking offenses.

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