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Could tragedy in Puna have been averted?


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Police may have been warned that an escaped mental patient accused of a fatal stabbing had been hiding in plain sight on the Big Island.

A source told the Tribune-Herald on Wednesday that he had notified Crimestoppers “about a month ago” that he believed a man taking Wednesday evening kendo lessons at the Waiakea Recreation Center was David True Seal.

The source, who requested anonymity, said he saw the 34-year-old Seal’s photo on the Honolulu Police Crimestoppers website and that he had called Hilo’s anonymous citizen-run hotline to report the sighting.

“I didn’t know him, and I never talked to him, but I knew it was him when I saw him,” the source said. The source said that the kendo student had the name “Swaim” embroidered on his gi. Court documents filed by police obtained Friday by the Tribune-Herald stated that Seal, who is accused of the fatal stabbing of 32-year-old Rory Thompson Wick of Eden Roc, also went by the alias “Serif Swaim.”

“I feel just terrible about this,” the source said. “It also bothers me to think that they (police) had this information, didn’t do anything about it, and now someone has been murdered because of that.”

The Tribune-Herald was unable to verify that police had received information that Seal had been sighted at the county recreation facility in Hilo.

Seal scaled a 14-foot-high chain link fence to make his escape from Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, Oahu, on Dec. 3, 2009, and, at least recently, had been living in another structure on the same Eden Roc parcel where Wick’s house stood, police said. Both men had gone to Hana High School on Maui. Seal had been committed to the state mental facility in April 2002 after being acquitted by reason of insanity of the kidnapping and attempted rape of an 8-year-old girl.

Seal had displayed assaultive behavior while in the mental hospital, and state health officials went to court to request the authority to involuntarily administer medication, but Dr. Mark Fridovich, the state’s mental health chief who was the hospital’s administrator in December 2009, said that no assault was involved when Seal escaped.

Seal, who is charged with second-degree murder, made a brief initial court appearance on Friday afternoon.

Hilo District Judge Harry Freitas set a preliminary hearing for Tuesday at 2 p.m. Seal, who is being held without bail at Hawaii Community Correctional Center, appeared in custody, his left hand swathed in a large bandage and a smaller bandage covering fingers on his right hand.

Court documents state that a witness called police to notify them of the stabbing at the Pilo Street home. The man reportedly told police that “his friend ‘Rory’ had been stabbed with a kitchen knife by a male party named ‘Serif’.”

The man police later identified as Seal was seen standing in the driveway with blood stains on his clothes, documents state. Police wrote that he “made a spontaneous statement relating ‘I killed my brother, he’s inside’” and that the witness identified the man making the statement as the party responsible for the slaying.

Documents state that police found Wick about 25 to 30 yards behind the residence “lying in a ditch, in the supine position, unresponsive, with multiple stab wounds to his chest and abdomen.”

An autopsy performed Friday revealed that Wick bled to death from multiple stab wounds with injuries to his heart and left lung, police said.

According to documents, Seal was identified through fingerprints.

Wick was the father of three young children. The children’s mother, Maya Samuels, told the Tribune-Herald on Friday that Seal “deserves to stay in jail for the rest of his life for what he did to Rory and to my children.”

“I love my children with all my heart, and I miss Rory. We all love him and miss him. I’m fortunate to have the support of my friends and I am grateful for that,” she said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaii


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