Murder trial begins for twin in cliff crash
Witness testifies he saw ‘hair-pulling and punching’ before SUV took fatal jerk to left
WAILUKU — As a murder trial began Monday for a woman who survived a fatal crash that killed her twin, witnesses testified they saw arguing, hair-pulling and punching in a white sport utility vehicle before it went over a cliff near Hana.
“First they were arguing. It escalated,” said 17-year-old Joseph Toleafoa, who was a backseat passenger in a van heading toward Hana town in the late afternoon of May 29, 2016.
The van, carrying Toleafoa and other Oahu residents on a Boy Scout trip, couldn’t get past the SUV, which was heading in the opposite direction and was stopped in the middle of the road with its hazard lights flashing.
Although he and others in the van couldn’t hear what the two women in the SUV were saying, Toleafoa said he saw “a lot of gestures, like they were going at it.”
“Hair-pulling and punching is what I saw,” he said.
The hair-pulling and punching by both women continued, with the driver’s head being pulled to the passenger side of the vehicle, as the SUV began moving and passed the van, Toleafoa said.
He said he was looking forward at the road when he heard the engine of the SUV rev and turned to look back.
“The SUV sped up and then it jerked to the left,” Toleafoa said, before it went over the cliff.
Toleafoa testified Monday in the 2nd Circuit Court trial of Alexandria Duval, 39, who was driving the SUV. She has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder of her twin sister, Anastasia Duval, who died at the scene of the crash at Milepost 47.5 on Hana Highway.
At the time of the crash, the twins were living in a luxury home in Haiku with Alexandria Duval’s boyfriend, Lonnie Dickerson, and Anastasia’s boyfriend, Federico Bailey, Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa said during opening statements.
He said Bailey and Anastasia Duval had planned to move to the Big Island “to start a new life together.”
“But the defendant was against that plan,” Higa said.
He said the Duval sisters were often drunk “and when drunk, they argued and physically fought with each other.”
On the weekend of the crash, Anastasia Duval wanted to go camping with just Bailey, but Alexandria ended up going with them to Kipahulu, using Dickerson’s new 2016 white Ford Explorer that still had paper license plates, Higa said.
At about 1 p.m. May 29, 2016, the sisters drove away from the campsite in the SUV, heading north toward Hana town, Higa said. He said various residents saw the SUV being driven erratically, starting about an hour before the crash at 4:30 or 4:40 p.m.
Hana resident Chad Smith, who was driving south on Puuiki access road to St. Peter’s Church in the late afternoon, said he saw two women in a white SUV heading in opposite direction toward Hana town.
“They were arguing,” he said. “They were kind of coming toward me, so I had to kind of swerve to the side of the road, get out of their way.”
He testified the women had their hands up.
“They looked angry and yelling at each other,” he said. “It was pretty obvious they were arguing.”
Higa said evidence, including information retrieved from the vehicle’s data crash recorder, would show there was no braking, but there was acceleration and a hard left turn before the crash.
He said the evidence would show Alexandria Duval, who is also known as Alison Dadow, “intentionally or knowingly drove off that cliff, thereby causing the death of her sister.”
Defense attorney Birney Bervar, in his opening statement, said that in the seconds before the SUV hit the rock wall and dirt berm, several eyewitnesses saw “violent fighting and hair-pulling” in the vehicle.
“The passenger was violently pulling my client’s hair with both of her hands,” Bervar said. “It was jerking her head over to the passenger seat.”
He said the hair-pulling was so violent that long blond hair was found in Anastasia Duval’s hands.
Alexandria Duval had taken her foot off the accelerator to stop the SUV but missed the brake pedal as her hair was being pulled, Bervar said.
He said evidence would show that the crash wasn’t caused by a sudden left turn but by “running off the road,” with the SUV first hitting a dirt berm on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The SUV then hit the edge of the rock wall on the passenger side before going over the cliff and hitting a rock outcropping, Bervar said.
“The car then flips, back end over, throwing Anastasia into the back seat,” Bervar said, before smashing into a rock wall and crushing her.
“This case is a tragic accident, not murder,” he said. “There’s ample reasonable doubt in this case.”
Police officer Chase Bell, who was dispatched to the crash scene at 4:42 p.m., said he and other emergency workers followed a fishing trail and went through a sea cave to reach the SUV, which was on rocks 115 feet down the cliff.
The passenger, who was in the backseat, had no pulse, Bell said.
He said the driver remained in her seat, with her legs or knees stuck beneath the steering column. The driver gave her name as “Alex” and identified the passenger as Ana Dadow, Bell said.
After Alexandria Duval was medevaced to Maui Memorial Medical Center and received treatment in the emergency room, police traffic investigators Justin Mauliola and Jun Hattori went to see her to get information on family members to notify about Anastasia’s death.
After being told her sister had died, “her initial reaction was kind of hysterical,” Mauliola testified.
“I remember her eyeballs getting real large,” he said. “She stared at both of us. There was kind of a lot of denial.”
Mauliola said he didn’t see Duval crying. “She became real defensive, refused to give anything more to us.”
He could smell alcohol on Duval’s breath, Mauliola said.
To get information to notify family members, he went to the home of Dickerson, the registered owner of the white SUV. Dickerson agreed to meet Mauliola at the hospital to identify the surviving twin.
“He immediately identified her as Alexandria,” Mauliola said.
As the officer was talking to Dickerson, “she was telling him to shut up, don’t say anymore,” Mauliola said.
A few days later, on June 3, 2016, when Mauliola and police Special Response Team officers went to the Haiku home to arrest Duval, “the house looked empty,” Mauliola said. He said a large yoga photo of the twins that he had seen on the earlier visit was gone.
Police located Duval later that day at a Kahului hotel, Mauliola said.
Mauliola described a dirt berm covered with vegetation and grass and a 50- to 60-foot break in the rock wall at the area where the SUV went off the cliff. He said there was no other break in the wall within 5 miles north or south of the spot.
Duval has waived her right to a jury trial. The trial was scheduled to resume today before Judge Peter Cahill.