Man charged
in 2001 fatal
head-on crash

An alleged car race led to the
death of a Holy Trinity teacher

An Oahu grand jury has indicted the driver of an allegedly speeding car that collided with a van, killing popular Holy Trinity teacher Elizabeth Kekoa nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

Nicholas Tudisco, of Hawaii Kai, was charged yesterday with reckless manslaughter, punishable by 20 years in prison. He and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

Monica Des Jarlais, principal of Holy Trinity School and one of Kekoa's best friends, said she was overcome when she was notified by the prosecutor's office of the indictment: "I was filled with so much emotion I broke down crying."

Des Jarlais, who had spearheaded an effort after the second anniversary of Kekoa's death to urge parishioners and parents to put pressure on prosecutors, said that when she announced the news later at a faculty meeting, "there was a definite cheer and a sense of relief" that something was being done.

Tudisco was behind the wheel of a Honda Prelude going Koko Head-bound on the H-1 freeway on Aug. 26, 2001, when the car spun out of control before the 6th Avenue offramp and crashed head-on into the concrete median.

The Honda's rear end slammed into the back of the 1994 Ford Aerostar carrying Kekoa, 58, and her family, causing the van to go out of control and smash head-on into the guardrail, police said.

Kekoa's husband and mother were injured in the crash.

Tudisco, then 18, was arrested for investigation of negligent homicide but released without charges.

Witnesses told police at the time that it appeared the Honda and another car were racing.

The court granted Deputy Prosecutor Charlene Tom's request yesterday to confirm $100,000 bail for Tudisco, who apparently is attending school on the mainland.

Tom said Tudisco apparently was speeding at more than 100 mph in a 50 mph zone at the time of the crash. Tudisco allegedly made some admissions to police that he had been racing, she said.

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said his office's decision to present a charge of manslaughter to the grand jury was based on the facts. "We took a look at the totality of the circumstances and the fact that this was such a gross level of speeding," he said.

The length of time it took to bring the indictment was largely due to the time-con-suming process of examining physical evidence and reconstructing the accident, he said.

Because of the increasing number of incidents involving motorists driving at excessive speeds that have resulted in deaths, Carlisle said his office is proposing legislation that would criminalize certain aspects of speeding that previously carried civil penalties.

Kekoa's family members have filed two wrongful-death lawsuits, one in 2002 and another in 2003, naming Tudisco and his parents, Michael and Cynthia Tudisco, as defendants.

Tudisco currently plays baseball at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.

Brian Thurmond, sports information director at Cal Poly, could not comment on Tudisco's case.

The school does have a policy, however, that students accused of criminal misconduct may be suspended from intercollegiate athletics until legal matters are resolved, he said.

It will be up to the provost and athletic director to decide if a suspension is warranted, and a decision is expected to be announced today.

The Kekoas could not be reached for comment.


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