Witness: ‘D.J. punched Fabian’
Opening statements, testimony begin in Paia manslaughter trial
WAILUKU — Two men had been exchanging words for a minute or two on a Paia sidewalk before one man punched the other, who fell back and hit his head on the road, a witness said Tuesday.
“D.J. punched Fabian,” Brook Cretton said. “It was really fast.”
Testifying in the 2nd Circuit Court trial of David Homalon Jr., who is known as D.J., Cretton described seeing Homalon bring his right arm up from his side to punch Fabian Martinez one time in his lower left jaw.
“He kind of stiffened, like flattened out, and fell straight back,” Cretton said. “He fell from the curb onto the asphalt.”
Homalon, 28, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in the death of Martinez, a 45-year-old Haiku resident.
Martinez, who was unconscious when he was transported by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center the evening of July 23, 2015, died two days later without regaining consciousness, said Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Teshima.
“This is a case about choices and consequences,” Teshima said during his opening statement to jurors Tuesday. “Fabian Martinez died as a consequence of David Homalon Jr.’s choices.”
Homalon punched Martinez “without warning, without provocation,” Teshima said.
Defense attorney Ben Lowenthal, in his opening statement, said Homalon reacted after seeing Martinez move toward him.
“One punch,” Lowenthal said. “David never thought he could do something like that. He never expected something like that.”
Earlier that day, Cretton said, he, Homalon, Sam Litchfield and another man had gone hiking at the Commando Trail in Haiku.
It was late afternoon when they ended up at Mana Foods in Paia, Cretton said. After buying food, he said he joined Homalon and Litchfield, who were sitting on the sidewalk with their backs against the store to eat when Martinez walked past them.
Homalon stood up and asked Martinez, “What’s your name?” Cretton said.
He said he heard Martinez say, “Why?”
Martinez turned toward Homalon and began walking toward him, Cretton said.
“They were talking about an issue with D.J.’s previous girlfriend,” Cretton said.
He heard Homalon say, “Were you talking to my girl?”
“It seemed like he was trying to, like, I don’t know, confront him, I guess,” Cretton said. “Fabian walked toward us and D.J. stepped forward a little bit to talk to him.”
Martinez and Homalon were about 2 feet apart, with Martinez facing the store and Homalon facing Baldwin Avenue, Cretton said.
When Teshima asked if there was anything aggressive in the way Martinez was talking to Homalon, Cretton said, “The only thing, there was one comment where D.J. said, ‘You shouldn’t be talking to the young girls like that’ and I think he said ‘How old are you?’And Fabian responded, ‘I’m older than you.’
“It could have been read as maybe sarcastic, maybe aggressive.”
Cretton also recalled Martinez saying, “I was just playing around.”
Homalon responded, “Oh, you were trying to play with her?” Cretton said.
He said he couldn’t remember which comment was made right before the punch.
“Prior to punching Fabian, was there any indication to you that D.J. was about to punch Fabian?” Teshima asked.
“No,” Cretton replied. “It kind of caught me off-guard, I think. I mean, I was trying to figure out what was going on.”
He said he hadn’t seen either Homalon or Martinez put up their hands as if they wanted to fight and neither took a fighting stance.
“Did you see D.J. assume any sort of body language that would indicate aggression?” Teshima asked.
“Maybe toward the end it was getting a little intense,” Cretton said. “Maybe the volume was getting louder. It just felt more heated. There’s some point where maybe they stepped a little closer. So maybe that could have been a signal.”
Cretton said he remained seated but had been ready to step in if he saw that the situation was escalating.
After the back of Martinez’s head hit the asphalt, “D.J. sort of walked over and looked down at him,” Cretton said.
“He was in shock,” Cretton said.
He said Homalon put his wallet and keys in Cretton’s grocery bag. “He looked confused . . . and then he walked down the street,” Cretton said.
Cretton said he and Litchfield went to try to help Martinez. Cretton said he saw Martinez’s right leg start to twitch.
“There’s some point where the blood started to pour out,” Cretton said. “It was his eyes, his nose, I think his ears, I think his mouth. There was a lot of blood coming out.”
Cretton said he didn’t know Martinez and only learned his name afterward.
Dan Rayburn, a Mana Foods manager, said he called 911 after seeing Martinez with a pool of blood under his head.
Following instructions from a dispatcher, Rayburn said he turned Martinez on his side to help him breathe.
Rayburn said he knew Martinez, who had shopped at the store for years.
“I’d see him around surfing,” Rayburn said. “I’d see him out in the water. We’d talk. He’s a nice guy.
“He was a mellow guy, quiet. He was kind of a cruiser. He just wanted to hang out, surf.”
Police officer Devin Schoeppner, who arrived at the store a minute or two after the call at about 7 that night, said Martinez was unconscious and lying between two cars parked in front of the store. While others tended to the victim, Schoeppner said he looked for the offender.
The officer said he talked to Litchfield, who said the suspect ran north on Baldwin Avenue. Litchfield didn’t provide Homalon’s name or say he knew him, Schoeppner said.
He said Litchfield described the suspect as 6 feet tall and weighing 160 pounds with medium-length hair with a couple of dreadlocks.
Officer Loren Natividad, who arrived shortly after Schoeppner, said he spoke to Cretton, who also didn’t say he knew who had punched Martinez.
It was only after Detective Ronald Bennett reinterviewed Cretton and Litchfield the next day that he learned they were Homalon’s friends, Teshima told jurors.
He said Bennett also learned that, as he was speaking with Cretton and Litchfield, Homalon was at Kahului Airport waiting to get on a flight to Los Angeles. The detective went to the airport to arrest Homalon, Teshima said.
The trial is scheduled to continue today before Judge Richard Bissen.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.