By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Steve Santos Dingle was sentenced to life in prison Thursday with the possibility of parole for the 2010 stabbing death of his wife.
Cathy Esteves Dingle, a mother of four, was stabbed multiple times on May 29, 2010, her second son’s 16th birthday, in a daylight attack that was seen by numerous people along Kamehameha Avenue.
Prosecutors agreed not to seek the harsher sentence of life without the possibility of parole following Steve Dingle’s guilty plea to second-degree murder.
That left 3rd Circuit Judge Glenn Hara little leeway in imposing his sentence, but it allowed family members of the victim to address Steve Dingle and ask Hara for the harshest sentence possible.
Kurtis Gebin, Cathy Dingle’s cousin, asked the court a series of questions as his oldest son buried his head in his hands and sobbed in the gallery.
“How could he … have the heart to do such a brutal act, to take the life of my cousin Cathy?” Gebin asked. “How could you be so selfish for what you did? Because you did not only kill Cathy, but you also killed a part of your children. Did it come up in your mind about your children?”
Gebin spoke about their son Chadly, now 18, and how “the death of his mom overshadows his birthday.” Oldest son Castly, 19, is “trying his best to take care of his siblings, his younger siblings, because Cathy is not with us and has been taken away.”
Cassidy, 13, is “growing up into a young man, who needs direction and guidance.”
Stecy, 11, “needs her mom even more now as she is becoming a young lady. She cries all the time because she misses her mom,” Gebin said.
“For our family, we will never get to physically talk to Cathy. We will never get to hug her. We will never get to spend another moment with her, but at her gravesite.
“We will never be able to build more memories with her, but she will always remain in our hearts,” Gebin said.
Gebin’s wife, Blossom Gebin, read a letter from Cathy Dingle’s sister Caroline Esteves Martinez, who was in the Philippines.
“Even after two years since the incident, the effects it has caused still has tremendous impact,” Martinez wrote.
Speaking for herself, Blossom Gebin read aloud a poem that she wrote.
“A life taken too early/ A life stolen so brutally/ All that is left are open wounds/ Because your life was taken too soon,” she said, in part.
Relatives and friends of both Steve and Cathy Dingle attended the hearing, but they sat on opposite sides of the courtroom and did not speak to each other.
The stabbing was the culmination of events brought on by Steve Dingle’s belief, based on a phone call from a nephew, that Cathy Dingle was involved with another man. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Darien Nagata suggested that the defendant was the unfaithful one, while court-appointed attorney Stanton Oshiro said there was proof of an affair.
Interviews from eyewitnesses and statements from the family and attorneys indicate that Cathy Dingle, 38, who worked at Big Island Candies and Freddy’s Restaurant in Hilo, was meeting Steve Dingle, 49, then a houseman at the Waikoloa Marriott Resort & Spa, after he got off a Hele-On bus after work. The two began arguing in their car and Dingle pulled out a knife with an 8-inch blade that was bought from a downtown Hilo supermarket.
Cathy Dingle was stabbed a total of nine times in the car and as she ran toward Kamehameha Avenue calling for help. Drivers stopped their cars as she walked into a crosswalk and collapsed. Steve Dingle was arrested a short time later on Kamehameha Avenue.
Nagata read letters to the judge from the four children, who spoke of emotional and financial problems following the death.
“I miss my mom more every day,” Cassidy Dingle wrote.
“I don’t have a mom to take care of me when I’m sick or when I need help getting ready for school,” Stecy Dingle wrote.
The defense had laid the foundation for a defense of extreme mental and emotional distress, but those plans were abandoned when Hara ruled Dingle’s statements before and after the stabbing, including words to the effect of “I’ll kill you if I catch you with another guy” and “I will kill you, I don’t care if they don’t have a mother” on May 25, 2010, were admissible at trial.
Had Dingle been convicted after a trial, he could have faced life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Oshiro also said Dingle didn’t want one of his sons, who was present at their Mountain View home when those statements were allegedly made, to have to testify.
Steve Dingle was given the opportunity to make a statement. He spoke quietly, and addressed the court in Ilocano:
“I’m asking everyone forgiveness. I did this. My mind wasn’t clear because I was hurt. I love my children. I love all my family. I am not a bad person, but it happened because I have lost it,” Dingle said through an interpreter.
“Hopefully, my sentence will help people move on, as I’ve read in the letters,” Hara said, before handing down the sentence. “Some stated basically, let’s get this over with so I can get on with my life.”
Members of the Dingle family declined comment.
“It’s a sad day for everyone,” Oshiro said later, outside the courthouse.
Blossom Gebin, speaking on behalf of the Esteves family, said they were “OK on the verdict.”
“We believe that justice has been served,” Gebin said. The Lord is watching, Gebin said, and “judgment will come when he has to face our Lord. And we’re just glad that he finally admitted to what he did.”
“I just want to say that it’s unfortunate that a tragedy like this has to happen,” Gebin said. “We’d also like to say to the community that this kind of stuff needs to stop. Domestic violence needs to stop. It affects everybody in the family.”
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.