Suspect in ’75 killing
claims investigators
violated federal law

The former Kaneohe Marine
is accused of killing a Kailua teen

By Debra Barayuga

A former Kaneohe Marine accused of murdering a Kailua teenager and trying to kill another one 26 years ago says federal authorities violated a federal act by investigating him and that local authorities took too long to charge him.

He is asking Circuit Judge Marie Milks to dismiss the charges against him.

Delmer Jerome Edmonds Jr., 46, of Indianapolis is awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder for allegedly shooting Dawn Bustamante, 13, in the head on March 14, 1975, after raping her. He is also accused of attempting to strangle her friend Cherie Verdugo-McCoy, also 13.

Deputy Public Defender Susan Arnett, who represents Edmonds, said yesterday that the Naval Criminal Investigation Services' involvement in the Edmonds case violated the federal act that prohibits using military personnel to investigate civilians in civilian matters that are not related to military purposes. Arnett argued yesterday that NCIS is an arm of the Navy whose agents report to the secretary of the Navy and had no military purpose for getting involved beginning in January 2000.

The murder had been unsolved until a special agent from the NCIS contacted Honolulu police on Jan. 31, 2000, and requested a joint task force to resume investigating the murder. Edmonds, who was questioned as a suspect back in 1975 but not charged because of a lack of evidence, was subsequently indicted on Aug. 7, 2001.

Arnett said NCIS Special Agent Bruce Warshawsky directed and participated in the investigation for the sole purpose of gaining evidence against Edmonds even though the alleged offenses did not occur on a military installation and Edmonds had since been honorably discharged from active duty on July 25, 1975, and cannot be prosecuted under the military system.

The NCIS used its resources to locate several other Marines stationed at Kaneohe at the same time as Edmonds and who have since given statements that Edmonds told them to lie about his whereabouts the evening of March 14, 1975.

Former Marine Steve T. Parker, a close friend of Edmonds, told police last year that he and another man had been drinking with Edmonds that night when Edmonds left for a period. When Edmonds returned, he allegedly told Parker he had shot a female because she had gotten blood all over the seat of his car.

Special Agent Paul Ciccarelli, in charge of the NCIS Pearl Harbor field office, testified yesterday that its involvement in the Bustamante investigation was properly authorized. Also, despite its name, the NCIS is a civilian -- not military -- law enforcement agency that provides criminal and counterintelligence investigative services to the Navy and Air Force worldwide, he said.

Warshawsky said the military adheres to a strict code of discipline, and if one of its own violates the code, "we have to pursue it, 26 years later or 100 years later," he said.

Retired police Detective Jeff Yamashita testified that the reason Edmonds was not charged in 1975 and the case remained unsolved was because police did not have sufficient probable cause. Verdugo-McCoy could not positively identify Edmonds or the car used in the abduction.

There is no statue of limitations for murder. Under the murder statute in place in 1975, second-degree murder is punishable by a life term with the possibility of parole, or 20 years' imprisonment.

The hearing on Edmonds' request resumes tomorrow.

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