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Witnesses tell of beating death by vodka bottle

Murder charge upheld in incident at Lahaina McDonald’s

Murder suspect Heather Glennon appears in Wailuku District Court for a preliminary hearing Monday. Witnesses testified she struck a 51-year-old man in the head the night of Feb. 2 in the McDonald’s parking lot on Wainee Street in Lahaina. She is helped being seated by her attorney, David Wiltsie. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photos

WAILUKU — A woman hit a homeless man on the head with a bottle of vodka in an assault that continued after he collapsed on the ground in the McDonald’s parking lot in Lahaina last week, witnesses said.

Testifying at a preliminary hearing Monday in Wailuku District Court, witnesses identified the attacker as Heather Glennon, 46, who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 51-year-old Christopher Flanagan.

Glennon and Flanagan and three others were sitting in front of McDonald’s before the assault at 7:20 p.m. Feb. 2.

“We’re all sharing Heather’s bottle of booze,” said William Thompson. “Then I think Christopher grabbed her bottle, and it irritated her and she got mad.”

When Flanagan and Glennon began yelling at each other, Thompson said he went across the street to Anchor Square “because I don’t like violence.”

Murder suspect Heather Glennon’s boyfriend, Jason Gallegos, talks with his attorney, Damir Kouliev, during a preliminary hearing Monday in Wailuku District Court. One charge of first-degree terroristic threatening was upheld against Gallegos, while four other felony counts were dismissed.

He said he was smoking a cigarette when Glennon’s boyfriend, Jason Gallegos, followed and punched Thompson in the face three times, leaving his left eye bleeding. About the same time, Glennon was attacking Flanagan, Thompson said.

“She was whacking him in the head with a half-gallon of Tito’s Vodka,” Thompson said.

“A bottle of vodka?” Deputy Prosecutor Carson Tani asked.

“A very large bottle,” Thompson said. “It’s the one with a handle.”

Asked how much force Glennon was using, Thompson estimated “two or three” on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most force.

“I don’t really know how hard,” Thompson said. “When you hit somebody in the head with a bottle, you don’t have to hit them really hard.”

He said Flanagan collapsed after a couple of blows. Then Thompson saw Glennon “continue hitting him with the bottle.”

Tani asked if Flanagan was reacting.

“He was not even moving,” Thompson said. “It was pretty much he was unconscious.”

He estimated he was 60 to 75 feet away and watching out of one eye when he saw Glennon strike Flanagan at least three times.

“I don’t think she actually meant to hurt Chris,” Thompson said.

Ricky Vargas said he was 40 to 50 feet away when he saw Glennon “punch, punch, punch” Flanagan in the face and chest about five times.

Flanagan was on the ground on his back “and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” Vargas said.

“He can’t do nothing. That’ it, no more,” Vargas said. “That’s why he died right now.”

Vargas rated the force used by Glennon at 10.

He testified that Glennon used the bottle of vodka to attack Flanagan while she said, “F— you, f— you.”

Under cross-examination by defense attorney David Wiltsie, Vargas acknowledged he saw Glennon holding something “shiny” but couldn’t see clearly enough to say it was a vodka bottle in the dark.

Another witness, Arnel Cesar, said he saw Glennon “grab the bottle.”

“Get the bottle, crack the head,” he said.

Asked if he could identify Glennon in the courtroom Monday, Cesar put his head down and paused for a couple of minutes before pointing her out.

“I know you, my friend,” he said, looking toward Glennon.

“He was my friend, too,” Glennon said in reply.

That night, Flanagan was transported by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he died Feb. 4, said Lahaina police Detective Harry Matsuura Jr.

He said forensic pathologist Dr. Martin Ishikawa performed an autopsy two days later, finding Flanagan’s death was “homicide due to multiple blunt force trauma to his head.”

The doctor also reported Flanagan had cirrhosis of the liver and atrophy of the brain “due to his consuming of liquor and his lifestyle,” Matsuura said.

Judge Blaine Kobayashi ruled there was sufficient evidence to support probable cause for the second-degree murder charge against Glennon. He kept her bail at $500,000.

In a separate preliminary hearing, Kobayashi found probable cause for one charge of first-degree terroristic threatening against Glennon’s boyfriend, Gallegos, 44.

The judge dismissed two other counts of first-degree terroristic threatening and two counts of intimidating a witness. Gallegos is also charged with third-degree assault.

After Glennon was arrested the night of Feb. 2, Thompson said he was approached by Gallegos, who had a can of gasoline in one hand and a lighter in the other. Thompson said Gallegos said, “If you talk, I’m going to kill you.”

Gallegos said “he was going to light me on fire,” Thompson said.

“I think he thought I called the police,” Thompson said. “I didn’t call the police.”

He said Vargas and another friend stood between Thompson and Gallegos “and wouldn’t let him come near me.”

Vargas said he could smell gasoline. “We scared,” he said.

Gallegos said he was going to “make a barbecue of all my friends,” Vargas said.

He recalled Gallegos saying, “My girl is in the jail right now.”

Defense attorney Damir Kouliev argued that the testimony didn’t support the “overbrought” charges.

He said Gallegos was getting gas at a nearby station. “He had a gas can in his hand and a lighter, which are both completely legitimate items to have near a gas station,” Kouliev said.

Gallegos’ bail was reduced from $16,000 to $3,000.

Glennon and Gallegos are set to be arraigned Feb. 19 in 2nd Circuit Court.

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