Man reindicted in death of son, 4, remains free

Judge allows supervised release for murder defendant

Kyle McKeown appears for a bail hearing Thursday in Judge Richard Bissen’s courtroom. Charged with murder in the death of his 4-year-old son in 2012, McKeown remained free on supervision following his reindictment on the charge. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — A judge allowed a man to remain free on supervision Thursday while he awaits trial on a reindicted murder charge in the death of his 4-year-old son.

In maintaining supervised-release status for Kyle McKeown, 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen noted that the defendant had spent five and a half years in jail while awaiting trial for second-degree murder before being released when the prosecution asked to dismiss the case in April.

“The defendant was prepared to go forward under the original charge, the original theory,” Judge Bissen said Thursday. “And so the decision, in the court’s mind, to recharge this on another theory has weight in determining what is fair for someone who is awaiting trial.”

Bissen also noted that the prosecution was recommending supervised release for co-defendant Grace Lee-Nakamoto, 33. She is charged with murder along with McKeown, 38, in a new indictment returned May 18 by a Maui County grand jury.

McKeown and Lee-Nakamoto were living together in Wailuku when they took his unresponsive son, Zion, to the Maui Memorial Medical Center emergency room at 10:55 p.m. May 29, 2012. The boy was pronounced dead at 4:30 a.m. the next day, with an autopsy showing he died of blunt force trauma to his lower abdomen, according to police.

In the new indictment, McKeown and Lee-Nakamoto are charged with causing Zion’s death by inflicting injury on him or by failing to seek timely medical attention for him from May 21 to 29, 2012.

The indictment also includes an enhanced sentencing provision because the victim was 8 years old or younger. A conviction for second-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole. Under enhanced sentencing, the penalty would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

When he appeared voluntarily in court two weeks ago, McKeown pleaded not guilty to the charge.

While the prosecution asked that some bail be set for McKeown, his attorney Matthew Nardi argued that McKeown should remain free.

After being released from jail, McKeown found a residence and a job, Nardi said.

“He’s standing here presumed innocent,” Nardi said. “If he was going to run, he could have done it two months ago when it wouldn’t have created another crime. He could be in another country.

“He does want his day in court,” Nardi said. “He does want to be able to clear his name.”

Nardi said he spoke with Maj. Deborah Taylor, a corrections supervisor, about the more than five years McKeown had been jailed at the Maui Community Correctional Center.

“She verified the entire time he had absolutely no sanctions whatsoever,” Nardi said.

“Given the nature of what’s being alleged, there is no danger to the community,” Nardi said.

He said the prosecution’s theory of the case “requires exclusive access.”

In reviewing a transcript of the grand jury proceeding that led to the new indictment, “there’s no way to delineate any difference between Mr. McKeown and Ms. Lee-Nakamoto,” Nardi said.

“Nothing I have been provided would point to one more than the other,” he said.

First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said McKeown’s criminal history includes convictions for multiple charges of assault, abuse, contempt of court, resisting arrest and assault of a police officer.

“He does have a history of family violence,” Rivera said.

He said the prosecution was recommending supervised release for Lee-Nakamoto because of an agreement with her involving a reduced charge.

While McKeown had been jailed, Lee-Nakamoto had been released on supervision for several years while trial was pending, Rivera said.

Judge Bissen said he understood the difference in criminal records for McKeown and Lee-Nakamoto.

“However, as it stands, the co-defendant is charged with the identical charge and will be recommended to be placed on supervised release,” Bissen said.

Lee-Nakamoto pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge during her arraignment Thursday. She was released on supervision.

An Aug. 27 trial date was set for McKeown and Lee-Nakamoto.

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

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