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Hilo girl allegedly starved to death was once ward of state

A 9-year-old Hilo girl whose parents and grandmother are alleged to have starved her to death last year was on the radar of Child Welfare Services since at least 2007, according to court documents.

Shaelynn Lehano-Stone and at least one sibling, a brother, were “in temporary custody of CWS,” stated a probation officer’s report filed Feb. 13, 2007, in a 2006 misdemeanor assault case of the girl’s father, Kevin Lehano.

Documents state the assault victim was the children’s mother, Tiffany Stone. The court allowed a deferred acceptance of Lehano’s no-contest plea, and the conviction was expunged from his record in 2007.

Lehano, who turns 50 today, and Stone, 33, pleaded not guilty Monday to second-degree murder for the June 28, 2016, death of Shaelynn Lehano-Stone.

Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura ordered Lehano to appear for trial at 9 a.m. Dec. 4.

Stone was ordered by Acting Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto to appear for trial at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 13.

The girl’s maternal grandmother, 59-year-old Henrietta Stone, also appeared Monday before Nakamoto on a second-degree murder charge, but Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa told the judge his office had a conflict of interest and couldn’t represent her because it represents Lehano in the case.

Nakamoto rescheduled Henrietta Stone’s arraignment and plea for 1 p.m. today to give the court time to appoint private counsel to defend her.

Henrietta Stone was the victim’s legal guardian, and the girl was found unresponsive June 28, 2016, in her grandmother’s Kinoole Street apartment.

According to a written police statement, first responders summoned to the apartment — which is almost directly across the street from the Hilo Central Fire Station — “were confronted with what appeared to be a severely malnourished and unconscious young girl lying on the floor within the home.”

Shaelynn Lehano-Stone died a few hours later at Hilo Medical Center.

Deputy Public Defender Justin Lee, representing Lehano, and Melody Parker, Tiffany Stone’s court-appointed attorney, requested their clients be freed on supervised release or that bail be reduced.

Parker objected to the tone of news media coverage of the case and said the bail study, which recommended against supervised release for her client, cited “extensive publicity” as a reason.

“Extensive publicity (as) a reason why this woman, who is presumed innocent … should not even be allowed supervised release in this situation?” Parker said. “I strongly object to the press being allowed in court in this particular matter. I strongly object to the prosecution being able to make statements to the press and would ask the court at this time to place a gag order on the prosecution. … I don’t think it’s fair that these matters should be tried in the press. And this is just an invitation for them to do so.”

Parker said Stone “made no comments that would show that she poses any kind of risk to herself, to the community or is any kind of a flight risk” and that prosecutors “bootstrapped a misdemeanor into a murder charge.” She said her client has “been an active participant with (CWS) since 2016” and noted there is “one prior conviction from 2004, over 13 years ago … and that was for a misdemeanor.”

That conviction, for second-degree terroristic threatening, was originally charged as first-degree terroristic threatening, a Class C felony. According to the complaint, Stone threatened Lehano with a knife on June 3, 2004.

Nakamoto didn’t impose the gag order requested by Parker.

The judges in both murder cases denied supervised release for Lehano and Stone and, at the request of Deputy Prosecutor Haaheo Kahoohalahala, ordered that neither are to have unsupervised contacts with minors if they are released from custody.

A conviction for second-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.

All three defendants remain in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail.

The state Department of Human Services declined to answer specific questions from the Tribune-Herald, but provided a written statement.

“Child Welfare Services works daily to support the safety, permanency and well-being of Hawaii’s children … statewide. Our role is to strengthen families so they can provide a safe home for their children,” the statement said. “If a child’s home is not safe, we will place them with a licensed resource caregiver until we can reunify or help them find a safe permanent home.

“We rely on community reports and ask that anyone who suspects abuse, neglect or threatened harm to contact our hotline 1-800-494-3991.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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