Pesa Vaa, right, a neighbor of the Indreginals, talked to reporters yesterday at the Puuwai Momi housing complex in Halawa. Also talking to reporters was friend La Cottrell, at left.

Manslaughter verdict
angers victim’s family

Family and friends expressed surprise and outrage yesterday after learning that the accused killer of 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

But some were also relieved that the trial was over, hopeful the ruling would bring about closure.

"We Indreginals, we lost. We lost somebody we love," said Kahealani's grandmother Segondina. "I'm not God. You have to forgive, and hopefully something like this will never happen again."

A Circuit Court jury returned the verdict yesterday in the trial of Christopher Aki, who was charged with second-degree murder in Kahealani's December 2002 death.

Kahealani's father, Vincent, said he was "upset" about the verdict but added, "Whatever the sentence ... Kahea's not going to come back, no matter what."

At the Puuwai Momi complex in Halawa yesterday, neighbors and friends of the Indreginals were also unhappy with the verdict.

"I can't believe it," said one resident as she held back tears. "Why wasn't it murder?"

"Manslaughter's not good enough for me," said Ceslieanne Kamakawiwoole, whose boyfriend is Kahealani's cousin. "Justice wasn't done."

L'Mae V., who went to school with Kahealani's half sister, agreed.

"She (Kahealani) trusted him," she said. "The little girl trusted him and he betrayed that trust."

As people got word of the verdict yesterday, many remembered the days after Kahealani's disappearance before her body was found, when family and friends held signs along the roadway pleading for the girl's safety. Aki was among those asking for the girl's return.

"He was passing out fliers," said Indreginal family friend La Cottrell, whose son used to play with Kahealani. "I think that's dirty. ... A lot of people are angry. It's like justice has not really been done."

Cottrell said Kahealani's mother, Lehua Tumbaga, who declined to be interviewed, was affected "real bad" by the news.

"The family has just gone through a lot," she said. "They've gone through a whole lot."

Pesa Vaa, who has also known the family for years and whose son was a friend of Kahealani's, called the verdict "unfair."

"They've suffered enough," she said. "This is a big shock to the whole community. I just feel like something is just not right."

Segondina Indreginal, Kahealani grandmother, weeping, was among the mourners at the girl's funeral in December 2002.

Girl’s grandmother
finds closure in court

Segondina Indreginal just could not admit her granddaughter was gone, although it has been more than a year since the body of Kahealani Indreginal was found.

"I felt if I saw her, I (could) believe (it was her), but we weren't allowed to identify her," said Indreginal, who attended almost every day of Christopher Aki's three-week trial. She learned details of the girl's death that even her parents had not heard because they were witnesses and were not allowed into the courtroom.

So when jurors were shown photos of a battered young girl clad in familiar clothing, Indreginal said she knew right away it was Kahealani and could finally put the tragedy behind her. "I now have closure. That was really her. It's over now."

While she welcomed the jury's verdict finding Aki guilty of manslaughter yesterday, "we're still the losers," said Indreginal, the mother of Vincent Indreginal, the girl's father. "Kahea's gone and she's not coming back."

In the frantic days following the girl's disappearance, the family issued an emotional plea before TV cameras asking for help in finding their missing daughter. Aki stood with them, holding a poster of Kahealani. Afterward, he hugged and kissed Segondina Indreginal, saying, "No worry, Grandma, Kahea will be all right."

He said those words knowing the girl was likely already dead, she said. Learning later how her granddaughter suffered bothers Indreginal. But she cannot feel any hate toward Aki now. "I just pray this will never happen again and never happen to another family."

She said she was hurt to see the photos of her granddaughter's injuries. "How she was tortured -- she really was crucified," Indreginal said.

But she is convinced Kahealani is now in a better place, heaven. "She's resting now that this is over. She's at peace."

Karen Garo and Lori Moreno, Segondina Indreginal's daughters, also say they cannot hate Aki and feel for his two young children, who will grow up without a father. The mother of Aki's two children is Kahealani's half sister, Tanya Mamala-Tumbaga.

"We don't want anybody to have to go to prison, but he did the crime and he needs to serve the time he deserves," Garo said.


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