Man guilty of
conspiracy count

The female victim in the case
was found dead in Makakilo

By Debra Barayuga

A Circuit Court jury found a man guilty yesterday of conspiring to kidnap a 37-year-old Kapahulu woman who was killed more than a year ago.

Delaneo Puha, 24, the first of eight defendants to face trial, was convicted of criminal conspiracy, second-degree attempted assault and hindering prosecution for his role in the January 2002 disappearance of Tracey Tominaga.

Tominaga's decomposed body was found in a shallow grave on a steep slope above Makakilo in April 2002 after one of the men who participated in her alleged beating and death confessed to police.

At trial, Puha's attorney Reginald Minn argued that Puha was never a part of a conspiracy to kidnap and kill Tominaga. He said Puha just went along with another man, Jason Perry, to help him get information from Tominaga about a male friend who had taken drugs from Perry a few days earlier during a confrontation.

Tominaga allegedly had a friend, later identified as Kaimi Seu, hold a shotgun to Perry's head on Jan. 18, 2002, and make him apologize for making unwanted sexual advances and exposing himself to her, prosecutors said. Seu and Tominaga also allegedly took $300 in crystal methamphetamine they found on Perry.

According to witnesses at trial, a few days later, Perry allegedly told Puha and others at a Halekauwila Street nightclub that he wanted to kill Tominaga and her friend, whose name he did not know.

After locating Tominaga a few days later, Perry allegedly took her to a remote location above Makakilo accompanied by Puha and six other men, and managed to get a name from her. Tominaga was beaten and strangled before being buried, prosecutors said.

Puha, who has been free on bail during trial, was immediately taken into custody after the verdict. He faces five-year terms on each of the convictions when sentenced July 28.

Minn declined comment on the verdict but said they likely will appeal.

Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said he will ask the court to double Puha's sentence to 10 from five years because he qualifies as a repeat offender.

Puha had supplied the crystal methamphetamine to Perry, who sold Tominaga drugs, prosecutors said.

In court, Van Marter described Puha as a "major drug dealer" involved in large-scale drug activity. One of Puha's associates said Puha was selling five to 10 ounces of methamphetamine per week, along with Perry, Van Marter said.

Puha was on probation for a drug conviction on the Big Island when he conspired to kidnap Tominaga. He is also facing trial in an unrelated 2000 firearms case, where he allegedly fired a gun in Waimanalo.

Jury selection begins tomorrow in Perry's trial for second-degree murder.


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