Thursday, May 3, 2001

Wallace "Dido" Rodrigues faces life in prison following his
conviction in a third killing. His defender charges that the
key witness had much to gain in pointing the blame.

Boxer convicted
in murder of cousin
—his 3rd slaying

But 'Dido' Rodrigues' lawyer
questions what the key
witness gains

By Debra Barayuga

A Circuit Court jury has found Wallace "Dido" Rodrigues guilty of second-degree murder for firing three shots into the back of his cousin's head 13 years ago.

Lorenzo Young, 31, was found dead in his burning car on a secluded road in Makaha early April 3, 1988.

Rodrigues, 36, a former amateur boxer, faces life with the possibility of parole when sentenced July 11.

The defense had argued that Rodrigues had "zero motive" for killing his cousin after going out with him and two others the night before and was not responsible for Young's death.

Defense attorney Howard Luke said they disagree with the verdict and intend to appeal several issues, including whether Rodrigues received a fair trial.

The jury had indicated it had struggled with the evidence and had asked "disturbing" questions concerning whether someone else was responsible or jointly responsible for Young's death, Luke said. The jury had deliberated for two full days before reaching a decision.

Rodrigues showed no visible reaction when the verdict was announced. His sisters who were in the courtroom gasped, "What?" Just before he was led away, they called out, "We love you, Dido."

Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said yesterday that the jury's verdict further validates why prosecutors have characterized Rodrigues as one of the most dangerous men in Hawaii.

Rodrigues aspired to be like the late Charlie Stevens, a known organized crime figure on the Leeward coast, and his criminal behavior validated that, Van Marter said.

This is the third slaying Rodrigues has been convicted of, and he awaits trial for first-degree attempted murder, punishable with life without parole, on yet a fourth slaying. His convictions, prosecutors say, are compelling evidence that he is a danger to the community and should be locked up for the rest of his life.

Although a motive was not raised during trial, prosecutors say Young was killed because he apparently had been skimming money off drug sales, which did not go well with his supplier.

Jurors in this case were not told about Rodrigues' previous convictions.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority sentenced Rodrigues to a 100-year minimum for the February 1990 murder of Leo Tuaoa, who was shot in the head and chest and found dead in the trunk of his burning car in Makaha. Rodrigues is appealing the sentence.

He is also serving a 7-1/2-year minimum for manslaughter in the April 1995 death of Wayne Pemberton, who was found shot twice and run over by a car.

Van Marter said he expects to ask the Hawaii Paroling Authority for a longer minimum term in the Young case since Rodrigues has now been convicted of three slayings. The state will also ask that it be served consecutive to the Tuaoa sentence.

Asking for at least 100 years, far longer than Rodrigues' life expectancy, is significant, Van Marter said, because it guarantees he will remain behind bars for at least 33 years.

By law, defendants who have served at least a third of their minimum term can ask for a reduction of their minimum sentence or early parole.

The defense strongly criticized the credibility of the state's key witness, Samson Fernandez, a childhood friend of Rodrigues, saying he had the "deal of the century" for cooperating with police.

After he had been arrested for some serious offenses in the fall of 1995, Fernandez told police that Rodrigues had described to him where and how he had killed Young.

The defense denies that conversation ever took place and that Fernandez had much to gain from making it up.

Prosecutors said Rodrigues told Fernandez about killing Young because Fernandez had witnessed him kill Pemberton a few months earlier.

Fernandez, who had been paroled in early 1995 after serving 12-1/2 years in prison, had faced several charges, including attempted murder. Under a plea agreement he pleaded to reduced offenses and agreed to testify against Rodrigues. Fernandez is currently serving two concurrent five-year terms.

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