Mourners listened at Borthwick Mortuary during funeral services for Kahealani Indreginal.

‘She’ll always
be in our hearts’

Christopher Aki pleads not
guilty via video conference
to Kahealani's killing

By Nelson Daranciang and Mary Vorsino

Christopher Clayburn Aki pleaded not guilty this morning to killing his girlfriend's 11-year-old half sister, Kahealani Indreginal.

The 20-year-old Aki, who confessed to beating Indreginal to death, did not appear in person to answer to the second-degree murder charge.

He took part in his arraignment proceeding via video conference from Oahu Community Correctional Center, where he has been held since last Monday, when he was charged with the killing.

His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Todd Eddins, entered the not-guilty plea on Aki's behalf.

Circuit Court Judge Dan Kochi selected late February for trial to begin. But Eddins said earlier that the complexity and high profile of the case likely would cause delays.

Pastor Chauncy Pang of the Word of Life Mission offered words of condolence and inspiration at the services last night.

"The publicity will need to subside prior to this case proceeding to trial," Eddins said.

Aki faces life in prison with the possibility of parole if he is convicted of second-degree murder. He is being held in lieu of $5 million bail.

Prison officials have segregated Aki from the prison's population as a precaution for his safety. He is in the prison's medical module under a suicide watch.

Indreginal went missing from her Makalapa housing complex Dec. 10 and became the subject of a massive door-to-door and helicopter search. On Dec. 13, a hiker found her body just off a trail at Keaiwa Heiau State Park on Dec. 13.

Sources close to the investigation have told the Star-Bulletin that Aki admitted to beating Indreginal to death with a metal pipe he found in Keaiwa Heiau Park, where the two had stopped to eat lunch.

Police continue to search Halawa Stream near the entrance to Pearl Harbor, where Aki said he threw the weapon.

Aki is the boyfriend of Indreginal's half sister, Tanya Mamala-Tumbaga.

Thirteen-year-old Saichi Holbron bore two roses as he viewed family photos of Kahealani Indreginal last night following funeral services at Borthwick Mortuary.

Last night more than 550 family, friends and well-wishers attended a funeral service to commemorate Indreginal, a model sixth-grade student who treasured moments with family and dreamed of becoming a doctor.

Parents held their children close and rocked slowly to the rhythmic notes of solemn song at Borthwick Mortuary.

Children, many of them Indreginal's Aiea Elementary schoolmates, pored over a wall of pictures of the 11-year-old and reminisced about the quiet, shy girl who cheered others up with her bright, comforting demeanor.

"She always had a smile," said friend Charlene Rahai as she slowly walked into the mortuary, before her voice broke, tears welled in her eyes and a friend smoothed back her hair and whispered comfortingly.

At last night's funeral, Wendy Cacatian delivered the eulogy for her niece by remembering the A-student's love for knowledge and zest for learning and by recounting how, even though Indreginal would enter "a room in a soft, quiet way," her presence was always felt.

Wearing maile leis, Lehua Tumbaga, left, and Vincent Indreginal, parents of 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal, gathered prior to yesterday's funeral service for their daughter.

"Kahea loved her family, friends and life," Cacatian said after pausing to wipe tears from her eyes.

Honolulu Police Department Criminal Investigations Divisions commander Darryl Perry, who was in charge of the search for Indreginal and now the investigation of her death, held back tears as a slide show of the girl's life played in sync with Hawaiian music.

"There was a closure" at the service, he said. But still there is a "deep sense of loss."

Reyson and Nida Saballa, of Honolulu, also attended the ceremony, to commemorate the life of a girl they never knew. The Chinatown residents followed with sympathy the news reports of her death.

"I just finally had to come," Reyson Saballa said, adding that he has to believe Indreginal "is in a better place."

Indreginal's family members declined to speak to media at yesterday's services.

Ninth-grader Kimberlyn Kong, a friend of Indreginal's family, said she had a "sore heart" as she sat on a bench with friends across from a poster board filled with Indreginal's school certificates, mostly for academic excellence.

"She was quiet. She was sweet. She was good," Kong said with a slight smile. "We know she'll always be in our hearts."

Besides her parents and Tanya Mamala-Tumbaga, Indreginal is survived by brothers Kawika Mamala-Tumbaga, Alika Tumbaga, Keola Tumbaga, Keahi Mamala-Indreginal and Keneki Indreginal; sister Kuini Indreginal; and grandmother Segondina Indreginal.

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