Self-defense angle
explored in stabbing

LIHUE » Defense attorney William Feldhacker appeared to lay the groundwork for a self-defense case during his client Richard Shannon Costa's preliminary hearing yesterday in Kauai District Court.

Costa, 36, will go on trial in Kauai Circuit Court on a charge of second-degree murder after Judge Trudy Senda found police had enough evidence in the Jan. 13 stabbing death of Weslyn Jerves, 18. He is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail and will be arraigned on Feb. 1.

Feldhacker centered much of his questioning of detectives on Jerves' reputation for always carrying a knife. The knife that killed her was her own, taken away from her by Costa in a struggle, police said.

Kauai police Detective Sam Sheldon testified yesterday that Costa was the second person arrested for the killing. The first suspect was released without charges.

Jerves' body was found by tourists in a cemetery near Port Allen on Kauai's west side.

Witnesses at Hanamaulu County Beach Park told police that they had last seen Jerves riding in Costa's car. Costa was questioned by police on the day of the killing and released.

He was questioned a second time on Sunday, submitted to a polygraph examination and confessed to the killing, according to police. He then led detectives to the area where they found the murder weapon, a knife belonging to Jerves.

According to police, Costa said he picked up Jerves late on Jan. 12 when she flagged him down on Hanamaulu Road. He said she fell asleep, and, after making a stop for gasoline, he drove her to the cemetery. A detective testified Costa's car was videotaped at the gasoline station where he stopped.

Costa told detectives that after Jerves awoke he asked for $20 she owed him, and she told him he would never get the money. He then told her to get out of the car and find another ride home.

Costa said when Jerves refused to get out of his car, he tried to drag her out. She pulled a knife on him and threatened to kill him, Costa told police.

In a struggle over the knife, Jerves was stabbed repeatedly. Both of her lungs were punctured, and two deep wounds were found in her throat, an autopsy showed.

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