WAILUKU - A Kahului man is facing an attempted murder charge after a woman testified Wednesday that she saw him pressing a pillow over his nearly 2-year-old son's face in the bedroom of their residence last month.
The child was kicking his legs as JR Edward, 25, held the pillow with two hands while pushing it down on the boy's face the morning of Dec. 18, Melina David said, testifying through a Pohnpeian interpreter.
"He looks angry," she said, responding to a question from Wailuku District Judge Blaine Kobayashi about Edward's demeanor.
After the boy was released, she said he was awake, and she didn't see any cuts or bruises, but "he was very red on his face."
After hearing testimony during a preliminary hearing for Edward that concluded Wednesday, Kobayashi ruled there was enough evidence to support charges of second-degree attempted murder and first-degree terroristic threatening against Edward. His bail was increased to $50,000.
Police were called to Edward's residence on Kono Place that morning after an argument between him and his girlfriend that had started the night before, according to her testimony when the preliminary hearing began last week. She had left the residence to go to a neighboring unit on the property to call police, leaving their son and Edward in the bedroom. That was when her cousin David, who also lives at the residence and was in the living room, said she saw Edward pressing the pillow over the boy's face.
When police arrived, Edward had left the residence, but he later returned and threatened his girlfriend with a 12-inch kitchen knife, "holding it up in a stabbing kind of posture" and apparently angry that she had called the police, said Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa.
Police were again called to the home, where Wailuku patrol officer Alika Mullen arrested Edward and recovered the knife with a 7- to 8-inch blade.
The day before she saw Edward pressing the pillow on his son's face, David said she saw Edward "stepping on the baby's face on the bed."
Cross-examined by Deputy Public Defender William "Pili" McGrath, David said she didn't call the police to report what she saw the day before. She said she believed Edward was drunk the morning of his arrest.
McGrath argued that what happened with the child didn't amount to attempted murder, although it might be considered terroristic threatening or some other offense.
"It's obvious that if Mr. Edward had desired to kill the baby during the morning of his temper tantrum, he could have because there was no one there to stop him," McGrath said. "Mr. Edward's behavior was loathsome, inappropriate and probably amounted to a crime. But this is based on one incident that apparently lasted in the area of seconds, since the child didn't pass out or require to be resuscitated.
"It's not attempted murder. I don't see how this court or any court could find this to be attempted murder . . . carrying life in prison."
Higa argued that the charge was appropriate.
"This is clearly an attempt to smother the baby," Higa said. "The baby's legs were kicking. This shows that the pillow was over the baby's face with sufficient pressure to cause this 1 year, 11-month-old baby to experience distress."
Edward is also charged with misdemeanor counts of first-degree criminal trespassing after he was seen in a nearby vacant residence when police first arrived and with interfering with reporting of an emergency by allegedly breaking his girlfriend's cellphone.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.