Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Cabbie denies
presence at killing

Keith Murauskas is accused of
killing cab owner Paul Salazar

By Debra Barayuga

A cabbie accused of bludgeoning a taxicab owner with a sledgehammer and stabbing him to death almost three years ago claimed he was not present during the grisly killing.

Keith Murauskas, 45, testified yesterday he never saw Paul Salazar on April 5, 1999, and denied he had anything to do with Salazar's murder or the plan to kill Salazar's wife.

Murauskas, charged with second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for allegedly attempting to kill two people, took the stand yesterday in his defense, proclaiming, "I'm innocent."

"I never did nothing. ... I would never hurt anybody for money," he said during an angry outburst while being questioned by his attorney, Keith Shigetomi.

The state contends Murauskas was broke and that he enlisted the help of fellow cabbie Edward Wallace Martin two days before the murder to get money. They both came up with the plan to kill Salazar, who leased both of them taxis, after initial plans to rob a bank or kill another fellow cabbie fell apart, Martin testified last week.

The defense contends Martin shifted blame to Murauskas to save himself and obtain a deal from prosecutors. Yesterday was the first time that Murauskas has spoken publicly about the events.

Murauskas denied being broke and said he went to Salazar's Magellan Avenue apartment about 6:30 p.m. that day to pay Salazar about $500 in back "lease rent."

Murauskas said instead of Salazar, he was greeted at the door by Martin, who said he was burglarizing the apartment and asked for his help.

Martin disliked Salazar, who had taken back Martin's taxicab on many occasions because he did not hustle enough to seek out customers, Murauskas said.

He said he agreed to help Martin wrap a package with black plastic bags and duct tape, but did not say what was inside. He later admitted he knew it contained a safe and various tools.

Murauskas said he saw no sign of Salazar at the apartment during the less than 10 minutes he was there. He said Martin gave him the keys to one of Salazar's cars parked outside and instructed him to take the package out of there and that he would call Murauskas in an hour.

Martin never called. When driving past Salazar's apartment later with his girlfriend's cousin, Murauskas said he saw police cars and decided not to go home that night because he still had the package Martin had told him to remove.

Murauskas said he hiked along a trail above Pearl City and broke into the safe and got rid of everything in it, except for the cash, which he kept. Police captured him and found $45,000 on him.

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