Woman testifies that boyfriend assaulted her

WAILUKU – When her boyfriend began hitting her with a 2-by-4 at their Wailuku residence Monday night, a woman testified, she used both hands to block the blows, trying to keep him from hitting her head.

“I have a thin layer of skin,” Sandra Sardinha said, motioning to her head. “If that gets hit, I die.”

With her right arm in a cast and sling, she testified Thursday afternoon at a preliminary hearing for Sauao Tuisano, who was arrested in the assault.

Wailuku District Judge Kelsey Kawano ruled that there was probable cause to support charges of second-degree assault and first-degree terroristic threatening against Tuisano, 57. He also was charged with abuse and interfering with reporting of an emergency.

On Monday night, police were called for two incidents at the house on Pikale Place, where Sardinha and Tuisano were renting a bedroom.

The first time was at about 7 p.m., after Sardinha heard Tuisano returning home, went outside and helped him take off his backpack. She said Tuisano “started grumbling” and threw a wrench at her.

She was running into the house when she tripped on a pipe wrench near the door and “flew” it toward him, Sardinha testified. She said she ran into the bedroom and locked the door but opened it when Tuisano kept pounding on the door.

She said Tuisano punched her in the lip and was hitting her, then left before police officers arrived.

Later that night, Sardinha said she heard knocking at the front door and opened it because she thought it was the landlord.

Instead, it was Tuisano, who asked for a shirt. “I said, ‘No, you need to leave,’ ” Sardinha said. “He said, ‘You’re going to let me go like this?’ I said, ‘Just leave.’ “

She said Tuisano pushed his way in, grabbed her shirt and tried to drag her into the house. She was holding onto the door hinges and managed to get away before tripping on an outside step.

“He’s yelling at me. I can’t remember what he said,” Sardinha said.

Then, she said, Tuisano grabbed a 3-foot-long 2-by-4 and began hitting her head, back and arms. “When he stops, he says he’s going to kill me,” she said.

Tuisano was holding the 2-by-4 in both hands and looking at her, Sardinha said.

“When he said he was going to kill you, what did you think?” asked Deputy Prosecutor Johann Smith.

“That I going die,” Sardinha said. “I was begging for my life.”

At one point, Sardinha said she had been trying to call 911 before Tuisano took the phone away from her.

Sardinha said there was “blood splattered all over the door” before Tuisano stopped beating her.

“I guess he got tired or thirsty or whatever,” Sardinha said. “He walked to the kitchen, drank water from the container. By then, police was just coming in the house.”

She said she heard Tuisano say “in order to take me, you have to shoot me,” before officers told her to leave the house.

Sardinha said that she suffered a gash that required four stitches on her right arm and had four staples in her scalp. She also had a bruise and cut on her left forearm.

During cross-examination by defense attorney Sam MacRoberts, Sardinha acknowledged she was on probation for burglary and abuse of her two grandchildren. She also said that she had been “methadone sick” while withdrawing from the drug prescribed for opiate addiction.

Sardinha said she overturned a television monitor outside and threw light bulbs to break them in an attempt to get the attention of neighbors as she screamed for help.

Kawano found that there was probable cause for the felony assault charge based on the allegation that Tuisano caused bodily injury with a dangerous instrument. But with police unable to speak to the doctor who treated Sardinha for what she was told was a fracture to her arm, the judge said he couldn’t find probable cause for the charge based on substantial bodily injury.

Kawano kept bail at $26,000 for Tuisano, who is being held at the Maui Community Correctional Center. Tuisano was ordered not to return to Pikale Place and to have no contact with Sardinha. He also was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to report for random drug testing if released on bail.

Tuisano is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 30 in 2nd Circuit Court.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at