Witness says she sat beside woman as boyfriend shot her

WAILUKU – After repeatedly telling her boyfriend to leave, Malia Kahalewai was sitting on a porch when her boyfriend returned and pointed a gun at her, her friend said.

“He told her, ‘You no like be with me,’ ” said Nicole Aea, who had her 3-year-old daughter on her lap as she sat with Kahalewai on a sofa outside a friend’s apartment at the Kawela Barns complex on Molokai. “And he shot her.”

At times pausing to wipe away tears, Aea testified Wednesday afternoon at a preliminary hearing for Marlin Lavoie, 33, who is charged with second-degree murder in Kahalewai’s killing.

Molokai police were called just before 9 p.m. March 20, finding 24-year-old Kahalewai with a single gunshot wound to her chest. She was transported to Molokai General Hospital, where she later died, police said.

Lavoie, who drove away after the shooting, was arrested the next morning when he surrendered to police near his residence in Honouliwai on Molokai’s East End, police said.

Wailuku District Judge Adrianne Heely ruled Wednesday that there was sufficient evidence to support the second-degree murder charge against Lavoie, as well as charges of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, being a felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition and keeping a loaded firearm in an improper place.

Police said Kahalewai and Lavoie had been in a relationship for nine years and had four children.

Four days before the killing, on March 16, Lavoie was arrested for abusing Kahalewai while she sat in a car with a female friend in a church parking lot at Kalamaula, police said.

Police said Kahalewai and Lavoie had separated after the arrest.

Aea said Kahalewai, who was one of her best friends, was visiting at another friend’s apartment the night of March 20 when Lavoie showed up. Kahalewai, Aea and two other women were in a bedroom.

“He came into the room and he wanted to talk to Malia,” Aea said. “But Malia nevah like talk to him.”

Aea said she stayed because Kahalewai “was pulling on my shirt.”

“She nevah like me go,” Aea said. “She kept telling him to go.”

Asked by defense attorney Chris Dunn whether Lavoie was sad, angry, crying and begging Kahalewai to talk to him, Aea said yes.

She said Kahalewai and Lavoie had talked in the bedroom “maybe five minutes” before Kahalewai, Aea and others went outside to smoke cigarettes.

Lavoie also went outside and seemed sad as he tried to talk to Kahalewai, Aea said.

“He kept repeating, ‘I want to talk to you, come over here,’ ” Aea said.

She said Kahalewai told Lavoie to “go away, beat it.”

“I remember her saying something about he should find a guy because ‘this bitch is not going to take care of you anymore,’ ” Aea said. She said Lavoie walked off the porch.

The others had gone back inside, leaving Kahalewai, Aea and her daughter outside.

Aea said her boyfriend, Constantino Toledo, showed up to tell her to return to the apartment where they were staying in the complex.

“I told him I wasn’t ready cause I nevah like Marlin hurt her,” Aea testified.

“Right after that,” Toledo said, he saw Lavoie shoot Kahalewai.

“I seen the barrel and the scope,” Toledo testified. “All I seen was, ‘You like leave me,’ boom.”

“Did you see how close the muzzle got to her chest?” Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa asked.

“Really close, could be point blank,” Toledo replied.

He said Kahalewai was within reach of Lavoie when he fired the shot.

Maui police Detective Jeffrey Mahoney, who interviewed Lavoie after the shooting, said the defendant admitted getting the rifle from his car, pointing it at Kahalewai and shooting her once in the chest.

Lavoie also provided the location of the weapon, a Remington bolt-action 30-06 rifle with a scope, that police recovered, Mahoney said. He said the firearm was registered to a man who acquired it in February 2011 and told a Molokai police detective that he had transferred the rifle to Lavoie shortly afterward.

Mahoney said a criminal background check showed Lavoie has two felony convictions for first-degree burglary and second-degree robbery in 1998.

During questioning by Dunn, Mahoney acknowledged that Lavoie was crying at times during their interview.

Asked if Lavoie had said he has a history of mental illness, Mahoney said, “I wouldn’t say history. He indicated that at one period in his life he was reportedly diagnosed as bipolar.”

Lavoie also reported that he had been institutionalized in Alaska and that on the night of the shooting, he should have been on medication so he wouldn’t “flip out,” Mahoney said.

Bail for Lavoie had been set at $500,000 cash-only on the murder charge.

At Higa’s request, Heely ordered that Lavoie be held without bail on the murder count. She set bail at $140,000 for the other three charges.

“There are no conditions that would ensure the safety of the community,” Higa said in arguing for the no-bail status. “Even as a felon, the defendant was willing to obtain a firearm and use it.”

Lavoie is scheduled to be arraigned April 11 in 2nd Circuit Court.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.