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Suspect in murder again seeks to have case dismissed

Bernard Brown was arrested after disappearance of Moreira Monsalve

Murder suspect Bernard Brown appears Thursday in 2nd Circuit Court for a hearing on his request to dismiss his case. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the disappearance seven years ago of his former girlfriend Moreira “Mo” Monsalve. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

WAILUKU — Murder suspect Bernard Brown is again asking to have his case dismissed, alleging insufficient evidence, conflicts of interest and excessive use of hearsay in a grand jury proceeding that led to his reindictment last year.

The prosecution is opposing the request, saying evidence was properly presented to the grand jury in a fair proceeding that resulted in Brown’s indictment for second-degree murder of his former girlfriend Moreira “Mo” Monsalve.

“This is a no-body homicide case,” Deputy Prosecutor Robert Rivera said at a hearing on the defense request Thursday in 2nd Circuit Court.

He said it was important for testimony not only “to establish a motive of this defendant being jealous, possessive, controlling,” but also to show Monsalve’s close ties with friends and family.

“That demonstrates that she had no motive to disappear, and if he hadn’t killed her, she would still be here today,” Rivera said.

The 46-year-old mother of three was last seen the night of Jan. 12, 2014, at Brown’s apartment at Iao Parkside in Wailuku. She had moved out of the apartment less than two weeks earlier, and family members, friends and co-workers described a “volatile relationship” between Brown and Monsalve.

Brown, 49, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

He has been held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Maui Community Correctional Center after first being indicted by a Maui County grand jury in September 2019 and brought back to Maui from Sacramento, Calif., to face the charge.

In December, Judge Peter Cahill granted a defense motion and dismissed the case without prejudice. Brown was reindicted about two weeks later on Dec. 18.

In court Thursday, defense attorney Keith Shigetomi said the motion that was granted to dismiss the case last year raised the same three issues of insufficient evidence, denial of a fair grand jury proceeding based on alleged conflicts of interest and excessive use of hearsay.

Despite that, the prosecution “simply did the same thing” in reindicting Brown, Shigetomi said.

“The motion has to be granted because it’s based on the identical grounds that were previously raised,” Shigetomi said. “Yet in the second go-around, they did the very same thing.”

He is asking for the dismissal to be with prejudice so Brown couldn’t be indicted again.

Rivera said the main concern that led to the dismissal last year was whether Brown could be brought to trial within six months of his indictment, in keeping with his right to a speedy trial.

Rivera said the prosecution and defense agreed that a dismissal and reindictment would be the “cleanest way” to ensure that. He said there was no discussion about excessive hearsay, whether the defendant had a fair grand jury proceeding or whether the evidence was insufficient at the hearing last year.

Shigetomi said the issue of having a trial within six months wasn’t reflected in a transcript of the dismissal hearing.

Judge Cahill continued the hearing Thursday to June 24, saying he needed time to review the transcript of the first grand jury proceeding and compare it with the grand jury proceeding last year.

“My recollection was that there was additional information” in testimony from police officers and Monsalve’s daughter, Alexis Felicilda, that was presented at the second grand jury proceeding, Cahill said.

The conflicts of interest raised by the defense involved a grand juror who reported knowing Felicilda and Monsalve and another grand juror whose stepsister is Rivera’s wife.

Both grand jurors said they could be fair and impartial when evaluating the evidence, Rivera said.

A conflict raised by the defense in the first grand jury proceeding involved a grand juror who said Felicilda is the daughter of the grand juror’s cousin.

“Remarkably, we do have grand jurors who know people in the case,” Cahill said. “Maybe it’s happening with more frequency than one might think.”

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

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