Victim ‘trying to hide’ from alleged shooter

WAILUKU – A Molokai man is being held on cash-only bail of $500,000 after being charged with murder in the fatal shooting Wednesday night of his 24-year-old girlfriend.

Marlin Lavoie, 33, of Honouliwai was arrested Thursday morning near his residence after he surrendered to police.

Molokai patrol officers had been looking for Lavoie, who was seen fleeing east on Kamehameha V Highway after the shooting, which was reported just before 9 p.m. Wednesday at Kawela Barns Apartments.

Police said Malia Kahalewai suffered a single gunshot wound to the chest and was transported to Molokai General Hospital, where she died.

The couple had been in a relationship for nine years and had four children, police said.

“I think the community is heartbroken and really sad for the families of both the victim and the alleged perpetrator and especially grieving for their children,” said Karen Holt, executive director of the Molokai Community Service Council.

The organization, which runs a domestic violence program on the island, had tried to provide help to Kahalewai, she said.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed with her,” she said. “I don’t know how much anybody could have helped given the fact that her boyfriend had such a severe mental illness. He was imprisoned, and he was let out. I don’t know what the system did after that.

“She was on the run and trying to hide from him, and that is the most dangerous time for anyone trying to escape domestic violence,” Holt said.

On March 16, four days before the shooting, Lavoie had been arrested for abusing Kahalewai, police said. At 4:48 p.m. that day, Kahalewai was in the driver’s seat and a female friend was in the passenger seat of a car in a church parking lot at Kalamaula when Lavoie suddenly showed up, police said.

He opened the driver’s door and struck Kahalewai in the left cheek with his right elbow, police said, and an altercation followed as he tried to remove the key from the ignition.

After getting the key, Lavoie got into another vehicle and left, police said.

He was arrested and charged with abuse when police made contact with him at 6:25 that night at the Molokai Police Station. He was released after posting $1,000 bail, police records show.

As part of the arrest, Lavoie was issued a warning citation to stay away from Kahalewai. The citation expired at 4:30 p.m. Monday, police said.

Kahalewai and Lavoie had separated after his March 16 arrest, according to an affidavit filed in court to support the charges against Lavoie. On Wednesday night, Lavoie drove toward Kaunakakai looking for Kahalewai and found her at a friend’s residence at Kawela Barns Apartments.

Lavoie went into a bedroom at the residence and spoke with Kahalewai for about 30 minutes before she walked out of the bedroom and went to sit on a sofa just outside the front door on a lanai, according to the court document. Lavoie followed Kahalewai out-side and the two continued talking.

Lavoie became distraught when he and Kahalewai couldn’t resolve their differences, the document said. Lavoie walked to his parked car, retrieved a rifle and walked back toward Kahalewai, pointing the rifle at her, according to the document.

He said, “You like leave me,” before firing one shot at her chest, the document says.

Then, “Lavoie returned to his vehicle, placed the rifle back within and sped off back to his residence at Honouliwai Valley,” according to the document.

Police said there were witnesses to the shooting and at least one young child was present. At least some of Kahalewai’s children were staying with her mother when the shooting occurred, police said.

Police reported recovering the rifle believed to have been used in the shooting.

In addition to second-degree murder, Lavoie is charged with using a firearm in the commission of a felony, being a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition, keeping a loaded firearm in an improper place and first-degree terroristic threatening.

Lavoie was shirtless and had his wrists shackled behind his back when he appeared in Wailuku District Court on Friday afternoon. The judge granted Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa’s request for $500,000 cash-only bail for Lavoie and set a preliminary hearing for Wednesday afternoon.

Lavoie’s criminal record includes convictions for first-degree burglary, second-degree robbery and third-degree assault of a woman who was beaten until she was unconscious in her East Molokai home in April 1998. He was sentenced to a one-year jail term as part of five years’ probation in that case.

After a jury trial in August 2002, he was acquitted of charges alleging he pointed a rifle at his then-girlfriend and her father and fired a shot in Honouliwai Valley, where his family lives, in August 2001. He also was acquitted of charges that he wielded a knife and threatened two police officers who went to question him about what happened.

According to court records, Lavoie was convicted of abusing his girlfriend in a 2008 case. That year, she had sought a restraining order against him, which was dissolved when a judge ruled that allegations hadn’t been proved at a hearing, according to court records.

Holt said that at one point a while ago, state Child Welfare Services had removed the couple’s children from the home, but they later were returned.

She said incidents such as the shooting are unusual on Molokai, where the last domestic violence death occurred on May 28, 2005. Manden Kamai is serving a 21-year prison term after he was convicted of manslaughter after punching his 22-year-old girlfriend, Okalani Mollena.

“That adds to the trauma for all of us,” Holt said. “Our staff is really grieving this loss.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at