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Still many unknowns a year after alleged assault

KAILUA-KONA — It has been just more than a year since two minors were suspected of sexually assaulting and attacking a woman at Old Kona Airport Park in Kailua-Kona.

At the time of the alleged incident, one of the suspects involved was a student at Kealakehe High School, which recently was confirmed by Art Souza, superintendent of the Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area. However, he added he was unsure if the teen was still attending school.

While the case is in the hands of the prosecutor’s office, it is unknown if charges have been filed.

“An allegation is only that until a formal charge is made,” Souza said.

The reported assault occurred on Sept. 3, 2016. According to police, at 8:35 p.m. two boys allegedly approached a woman, punched and sexually assaulted her. Police added that the boys reportedly fled when confronted by an unidentified person.

One suspect, a 15-year-old boy, was arrested a day later. He was later released into the custody of his parents, police said.

About a month after the alleged incident, residents gathered on Queen Kaahumanu Highway to wave signs to raise awareness about the reported sexual assault and other issues in the community, as well as to protest what appeared to be inaction in the investigation. Those who took part in the event and knew the victim described her as a “really sweet girl” and a “very talented musician.”

Police in February said they identified the second boy, saying he was “brought in and interviewed.”

At the time of the reported assault, Hawaii Police Department Maj. Robert Wagner said on Monday, investigators did follow up with a school where officials were cooperative. He would not identify the school because the suspects are juveniles.

Kealakehe High School Principal Wilfred Murakami said he wasn’t made aware of who the teens were at the time of the alleged assault. He learned about their attendance at the high school from rumors.

He said he never spoke to police about the investigation.

While the attack reportedly involved two juvenile suspects, police said in June that so far they’ve only been able to identify one “viable, prosecutable suspect.”

“There was another juvenile interviewed, but at this time (there is) not enough evidence to prosecute that individual if they were involved,” Wagner said in June. “I would definitely say the other juvenile spoken to is a possible suspect, a person of interest, but we have so far failed to connect the dots satisfactory for prosecution.”

Wagner said prosecutors still get the whole report with anybody who was interviewed or arrested, but that at this time there was only enough evidence to prosecute the one suspect.

“Should that change, then the other suspect will be sought for prosecution,” he said. “Or if after the prosecutors review the report and feel there is enough to go after the other suspect, then the other suspect will be prosecuted.”

The case was referred to prosecutors at the end of March.

In June, Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson confirmed her office received the case and that it was being reviewed. Last week, Lawson said she couldn’t comment on the case.

“Everything with juvenile court is confidential,” she said.

Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth also would not go into details about the case.

Souza said the complex area couldn’t constitutionally do anything in regard to discipline for the suspected teen because charges haven’t been filed. The boy is still eligible to receive a free education.

“You want to protect the public good but laws constrain what you can say,” Souza said.

The state Department of Education would not comment about whether the teens are currently in school or if any disciplinary action had been taken, stating they are bound by student privacy laws.

Lindsay Chambers, spokeswoman for the department, stated in an email, the department does not have jurisdiction over incidents that happen off campus and outside of school hours, unless they are a DOE-sponsored activity or event.

However, the department will cooperate with law enforcement as they conduct their investigations.

Email Tiffany DeMasters at tdemasters@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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