WAILUKU - Making his first appearance Tuesday in 2nd Circuit Court, a Santa Cruz, Calif., man pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, kidnapping and attempted first-degree sexual assault of a woman whose body was found Sept. 1 near Nakalele Point.
A Dec. 5 trial was set for Gerald Galaway Jr., 38, who is being incarcerated on a no-bail warrant.
He was brought to court after being discharged Monday from Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since the morning of Sept. 2 when police and firefighters retrieved him by helicopter from a rocky outcropping near Nakalele Point.
Wearing a back brace, murder suspect Gerald Galaway Jr. appears in 2nd Circuit Court on Tuesday morning. He pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, kidnapping and attempted first-degree sexual assault of Celestial Cassman, who was found dead Sept. 1 near Nakalele Point. Galaway’s trial was set for Dec. 5.
The Maui News MATTHEW THAYER photo
Galaway spent the night there after running from police officers and jumping off a 100-foot cliff into the ocean. Officers had gone to the area in response to a report of a domestic dispute before 6:30 p.m. Sept. 1, with one caller reporting that a man was trying to kill a woman and was dragging her down cliffs near Mile Marker 38 on Kahekili Highway, according to police reports.
About an hour later, shortly before 7:30 p.m., police found the body of 35-year-old Celestial Cassman, also of Santa Cruz. An autopsy showed she died of asphyxiation, police said.
Cassman had been seen trying to get out of a rental car driven by Galaway as it swerved across the highway near Mile Marker 36, according to police reports.
Soon after, a Kahakuloa woman told police that Cassman ran up asking for help before Galaway pulled her back and said everything was fine. The woman reported seeing Galaway with his arm around Cassman's neck, slamming her to the ground several times. She was kicking and screaming, according to the witness, who told police Galaway held Cassman in a chokehold and dragged her into shrubbery before the witness went to call for help.
Police said Cassman and Galaway had arrived on Maui on Aug. 31 and were staying together at a Kaanapali hotel. Cassman was deputy city attorney for Santa Cruz and two other coastal California towns.
According to his Facebook page, Galaway works as a behavior technician for a middle school autistic student at Easter Seals in Santa Cruz.
During his arraignment Tuesday, Galaway was handcuffed and wore a body brace over a plaid shirt.
His attorney, William Sloper, said Galaway wasn't asking for a bail hearing.
When 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza asked Galaway if he understood he needed to be in court on his trial date, he replied, "Yes."
Police said Galaway was arrested Friday afternoon in the hospital, after he was indicted that morning by a Maui County grand jury.
The indictment alleges that Galaway killed Cassman "in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner, manifesting exceptional depravity," which could lead to enhanced sentencing if he is convicted of second-degree murder, said Maui County Prosecuting Attorney John D. Kim.
Instead of life in prison with the possibility of parole, an enhanced sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole could be imposed if the court finds the murder was "a conscienceless or pitiless crime which is unnecessarily torturous to a victim," under state law.
Sloper said Galaway "is presumed innocent under the law."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.