Ex-city worker
gets life for killing

A former investigator for the city medical examiner was sentenced to a mandatory life term in prison with parole for shooting a Kailua man to death and then dumping his body into waters off Kaneohe Bay.

Circuit Judge Steve Alm also ordered Gregory Awana to serve a mandatory 15 years in prison for use of a semiautomatic firearm.

Awana, 38, was found guilty by a jury in December of second-degree murder, firearms and drug offenses stemming from the death of Yorck Woita, 28, in September 2003.

Awana admitted he shot Woita during a struggle over control of a gun but contended he did so in self-defense because the younger man had threatened to shoot him and harm his family.

According to evidence at trial, Woita learned that Awana had gone ahead with an indoor marijuana operation without him and confronted the former deputy sheriff. Believing he had been ripped off, Woita drove Awana to the Manoa home where Awana had been growing marijuana indoors for at least two years and demanded thousands of dollars he believed he was owed, prosecutors said.

Awana told the court yesterday that he is guilty of growing marijuana, but not murder.

On the day of the shooting, Awana said, Woita took him against his will to the Manoa house and threatened him with a gun pointed in his face and with harm to his wife and daughter. He said when he grabbed the gun, it went off and he panicked.

But Alm said Awana showed by his action that he wasn't a man who panics. He drove Woita's truck to Waimanalo and burned it, destroying it and any evidence inside, borrowed a boat the next day and drove out to Kaneohe Bay where he dropped the weighted body into the water, hiding the best piece of evidence, Alm said.

But he also agreed that the murder wasn't planned because it was Woita who initiated the confrontation that resulted in the shooting.

"You got yourself into this situation, Mr. Awana, and you will have to take responsibility for it," Alm concluded.

David Gierlach, Awana's attorney, said they intend to appeal.

Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim had asked that Awana's sentences on the other convictions -- ranging from five to 20 years -- be served consecutively. The request was denied.

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