Matsumoto found fit to stand trial


A judge found a Hilo man accused of a double homicide that occurred almost a year ago fit for trial.

Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura made the ruling Friday in the case of Sean Ivan Masa Matsumoto. The 35-year-old Matsumoto is accused in the Feb. 11, 2013, shotgun slayings of his 45-year-old girlfriend, Rhonda Lynn Alohalani Ahu, and her 74-year-old mother, Elaine Ahu, in their home in Hilo’s Waiakea Houselots neighborhood. Matsumoto also lived in the house.

“He can understand the charges against him and assist in his own defense if he chooses to do so,” Nakamura said in explanation of his ruling.

The judge did not set a trial date for Matsumoto, instead scheduling a “further proceedings” hearing for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 28. That hearing was requested by Matsumoto’s lawyer, deputy public defender Jeff Ng, so the defense can “explore options” including the option “to challenge the court’s ruling.”

Deputy prosecutor Tharrington Trusdell said the state has no objection as long as the defense waives its right to a speedy trial pending the hearing.

Two court-appointed mental examiners, psychologist Dr. Thomas Cunningham and psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Bisset, found Matsumoto fit for trial. A third, psychiatrist Dr. Henry Yang, said Matsumoto suffers from a “substance-induced psychotic disorder secondary to amphetamine abuse” that would render him unfit for trial.

Cunningham testified last month he thinks Matsumoto is “malingering” in the hope of being found unfit for trial. He described malingering as fabricating or exaggerating symptoms of illness to gain a secondary reward.

He said Matsumoto was “not fully cooperative” when interviewed May 29 at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

Cunningham said a review of Matsumoto’s records and interviews of HCCC staff found Matsumoto “was not presenting a management problem and did not appear to behave in a way that would suggest lack of fitness to proceed. He had never been diagnosed as mentally retarded or mentally deficient.”

In addition to malingering, Cunningham said his primary diagnoses for Matsumoto are “crystal methamphetamine dependency, alcohol abuse and cannabis abuse.”

Bisset testified in October that Matsumoto “is somewhat impaired by his paranoia toward the world” but “has an adequate understanding of the proceedings, of the charges against him, legal processes and so on.”

Yang testified in October that Matsumoto has “a long history of psychiatric and psychological treatment, and also a long history of substance abuse” and said Matsumoto’s psychosis and paranoia would be detrimental to his efforts to assist defense counsel at trial.

Two children were in the home when the late-night shooting occurred, including Rhonda Ahu’s daughter, who was 15 at the time, and Matsumoto’s and Rhonda Ahu’s 6-year-old son, the girl’s half-brother.

Carol Luciano, Elaine Ahu’s sister and Rhonda Ahu’s aunt, told the Tribune-Herald in August the girl “saw everything.”

Luciano said Friday she’s “happy the judge said he is fit.”

“I’m very happy because (Matsumoto) knows what he did,” she said. “He deserves to be put away for life. I feel sorry for the children because now they’re without their mother and their grandmother. And the little boy cries every now and then for his mom.”

Matsumoto remains in custody at HCCC without bail.

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

 

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