Prosecutor: Suspect bragged about details only killer would know

Defense maintains defendant has an alibi, not at murder scene

Murder suspect Jesse Hueu (left) sits with his attorney, Richard Gronna, during his 2nd Circuit Court trial Thursday. Hueu has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the Dec. 11, 2014, killing of 56-year-old Derrick Kualaau, who was found beaten at his shack at Maliko Gulch. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

WAILUKU — When murder suspect Jesse Hueu bragged about killing another man with a baseball bat at Maliko Gulch, he provided information that was corroborated by crime scene evidence and the victim’s injuries, a deputy prosecutor said.

Hueu gave “details that only the person who killed Derrick Kualaau would know,” Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa said Thursday morning during his opening statement in Hueu’s 2nd Circuit Court murder trial.

Hueu, 48, of Haiku has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the Dec. 11, 2014, killing.

That evening, police were called to Kualaau’s one-room shack on the west side of Maliko Gulch after a friend reported finding the 56-year-old Kualaau lying in a pool of blood and not moving.

Higa told jurors that the evidence would show that Hueu was angry and went to confront Kualaau that day.

Kualaau was sitting in a plastic lawn chair on the porch of his shack when Hueu went to Kualaau’s side and hit him in the back of his head with a baseball bat, Higa said.

“He caught Derrick by surprise,” Higa said.

He said Kualaau went into convulsions before Hueu “hit him again on the right side of the head.”

Hueu took an 8-ball, or ¡th ounce, of methamphetamine and a smoking pipe from Kualaau, then went into his shack to look for more, Higa said.

Then Hueu left, “but not before hitting him again in the left arm and left knee with that bat,” Higa said.

A few days later, during conversations with longtime friend Alex Kealoha, Hueu said he had killed Kualaau with a baseball bat, said Higa.

“He was bragging about it to Alex,” Higa said.

He said police had found Kualaau on the ground on his right side as if he had fallen out of a chair that was tipped over on his porch.

Vincent Souki, who was working as a police evidence specialist, said it was raining and “pitch black” when he arrived at the scene at 7:23 p.m. and photographed Kualaau lying in pooling blood. “He was pretty stiff, so he’d been in that position for a while,” Souki testified.

“It didn’t appear there was a struggle other than that there was blood coming out of his head,” Souki said.

An autopsy showed injuries to Kualaau’s head, arm and knee that could have been caused by a baseball bat, Higa said.

“Investigation of the scene showed there were no signs of a struggle,” Higa said. “Many things were intact, upright. Plants, furniture on the porch were not disturbed.

“When police processed the scene, they found no drugs,” Higa said. “They found no paraphernalia. They found no money — from a person that was known to use and traffic in ice, pills, marijuana.”

Higa said the baseball bat was recovered Dec. 13, 2014, in the area where Hueu reported during a conversation with Kealoha he had thrown it. Also in the conversation with Kealoha, Hueu reported hearing the bat hit a guardrail when he threw it, Higa said.

The bat was found under the guardrail, Higa said.

Souki testified that he swabbed the bat for DNA testing. The laboratory that did the testing recovered only partial DNA samples because of degradation, Souki said.

Responding to a juror-submitted question asking whether any DNA evidence recovered placed Hueu at the scene, Souki said no.

Hueu has provided notice of an alibi defense. According to the notice, Hueu had gone to Kualaau’s residence with two other people the morning of Dec. 11, 2014. Then Hueu was dropped off in Haiku and spent the afternoon and evenings hours with three other people, according to the notice.

Defense attorney Richard Gronna, in his opening statement to the jury, said Kealoha has benefited by being a witness in the case.

“He has been out of custody for the past four years,” Gronna said. “The state has given him that break because of the fact of the confession.”

Before police were called, two people reported receiving a phone call at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 2014, from a woman who said she had found her friend Kualaau lying in a pool of blood and vomit, Gronna said.

The man who reported finding Kualaau’s body a few hours later told police he had ridden his bike to Kualaau’s house at about 6 p.m. to see if Kualaau wanted to go fishing. After finding Kualaau, the man told police he became frightened and ran to tell a woman, Gronna said.

The two went to a call box, which they said was broken, before using someone else’s cellphone to call 911, Gronna said.

He said the man who reported finding Kualaau didn’t tell police that he went to the shack after he was called by another man who said he had found Kualaau lying in blood.

“Essentially, this case is going to leave you with more questions than answers,” Gronna told jurors. “But one answer you’re going to have is that Mr. Hueu was not there.

“You can’t be two places at once.”

Judge Peter Cahill is presiding over the trial, which is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

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

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