WAILUKU - In what a judge called a "modern-day fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel," two Haliimaile men were arrested after leaving a trail of cigarettes, beer bottles and candy wrappers from a burglarized neighborhood store.
On Wednesday, one defendant, Goodwin Nelber, 23, was given a chance to keep convictions off his record if he complies with court requirements for one year. He was ordered to pay $1,374 in restitution to cover damage and stolen merchandise from Inokuma Store.
"This was basically a modern-day fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel," 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo said in sentencing Nelber. "Basically, the police just had to follow the trail of candy wrappers and beer bottles until they picked you up. It led right to you."
The break-in occurred in the early-morning hours of June 30 when windows were smashed at the neighborhood store. The store was ransacked, with food and candy scattered on the floor. Cigarettes, beer, candy and snacks were missing.
A relative of the store owner followed a trail of candy wrappers and unopened candy down the street and around the corner. Police officers followed the trail farther down the street to a house where they saw candy in the front yard and empty beer bottles in an open garage.
Police reported the strong odor of liquor from a man who was asleep on a lawn chair. The man told police Nelber had brought over the beer and food at about 1 a.m. Inside the house, police found Nelber passed out on the floor of his bedroom, with a scratch on his arm and a fruit roll-up on the dresser.
Nelber told police he was too drunk to remember what had happened.
As part of a plea agreement recommending no additional jail, Nelber had pleaded no contest to reduced charges of third-degree criminal property damage and third-degree theft.
Defense attorney Michelle Drewyer said Nelber has no prior convictions. She said she and Nelber had talked about what could happen if he drank so much again.
"He understands how serious this is and that it jeopardized his ability to stay in the country and with his family," Drewyer said. "He's very sorry."
Speaking through a Pohnpeian interpreter, Nelber said he would "try his best not to come back to this court for this kind of wrongdoing."
Deputy Prosecutor Justine Hura said "the hardest thing and the most mature matter" for Nelber would be to stay away from alcohol while under court supervision.
"Although the facts are ridiculous in the sense that this seems like a very juvenile type of crime, it does affect people who are trying to live their lives in the community in a serious way," Hura said.
Loo said she hoped Nelber is embarrassed when he passes by the store.
"You should be ashamed of yourself, taking candy, beer and cigarettes from a mom-and-pop store," Loo told Nelber.
He was given credit for six days he previously spent in jail and was ordered not to enter Inokuma Store.
A $20,000 bench warrant was issued for co-defendant Castaro Meninzor, 19, when he didn't show up for his sentencing Feb. 8. Meninzor had pleaded no contest to reduced charges of third-degree criminal property damage and third-degree theft, as well as underage drinking.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.