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Kahului woman testifies she was ‘scared for my life’ during assault

Judge finds sufficient evidence for charges, keeps bail at $75,000

WAILUKU — A woman testified she was “scared for my life” when a man sexually grabbed her, then began punching her in the face near a tree in a grassy field along Kaahumanu Avenue in Kahului.

“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” the woman said Monday during a preliminary hearing in Wailuku District Court. “I was in disbelief and scared, you know, scared for my life.”

She identified Daniel Opupele, 37, who is homeless, as the man who sexually assaulted and physically assaulted her June 19 in the field next to a Shell gas station on West Kaahumanu Avenue.

Judge Blaine Kobayashi found there was sufficient evidence to support charges of first-degree sexual assault and first-degree assault against Opupele, who agreed to appear by videoconference from the Maui Community Correctional Center for the hearing.

Opupele is also charged with resisting arrest and third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug.

The 34-year-old woman said she was upset that morning when she made plans to meet a friend at the beach by the Maui Beach Hotel. She said she had a bottle of vodka and was walking from her residence on South Papa Avenue in Kahului when she passed Opupele and another man who were smoking marijuana near the tree in the field.

She asked if she could buy marijuana and offered some of her vodka, she said.

The other man left and she was alone with Opupele when he “started making advances at me sexually,” she said.

She said she pushed him away several times as he lunged at her and grabbed her private area. Opupele took her cellphone and threw it onto the road, she said.

“Then he started to punch me in the face,” she said.

She said she was punched 20 to 30 times and was in the fetal position trying to defend herself. He kicked her in the back of her head, she said.

When she screamed, three people from a nearby apartment complex yelled for her to go toward them and one person called 911, she said. “I remember just seeing red cause my whole face was covered in blood,” she said.

When she got up, Opupele “hurled” himself toward her and pushed her to the ground, she said. At one point, he stomped on her ankle, fracturing it, she said.

She said a police officer arrived and Opupele approached the officer while she went to the three people, who helped her into a fenced area.

Opupele left the officer and went to the fence. “It was like an an animal rushing towards meat,” she said. “It was very scary.”

The woman, who walked with crutches to testify in court Monday, said she had been hospitalized in the intensive-care unit for two days and remained in the hospital until Monday.

Police Detective Ryan Nagata, the primary investigator, said an emergency room doctor reported treating the woman for injuries to her face, head and right ankle. The doctor reported she sustained a subdural hematoma, or bleeding to the outside of her brain on the right side, as well as a right ankle fracture and a laceration requiring stitches above her left eyebrow, Nagata said.

He said the doctor reported the woman was initially in critical condition and the subdural hematoma could have been life threatening. “He said it could have been fatal,” Nagata said.

The woman said she drank four shots of vodka from the bottle that was three-quarters empty.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Brandon Segal, Nakata said officers who arrived on scene that afternoon described the woman as “heavily intoxicated.”

While Segal argued there wasn’t enough evidence to support the sexual assault charge, Deputy Prosecutor Iwalani Gasmen said the woman’s testimony supported the charge.

Judge Kobayashi kept bail at $75,000 for Opupele.

He is set to be arraigned July 6 in 2nd Circuit Court.

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

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