By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A former Big Island police sergeant serving a life sentence for the 1992 kidnapping and slaying of his wife testified Wednesday by video conference before the Hawaii Paroling Authority, a deputy state attorney general said.
The parole board is to reconsider the mandatory minimum terms on both convictions for Kenneth Wayne Mathison, but no decision was reached at Wednesday’s hearing in Honolulu, Deputy Attorney General Vince Kanemoto said Wednesday afternoon.
“The board wanted follow-up memoranda from myself and from defense attorney Richard Gronna. So I have two weeks. I have until Oct. 9 to submit mine to the board. And then, Mr. Gronna has until, I believe, Oct. 23. Then the board will make its final decision within a month of Oct. 23,” Kanemoto said. “We had to do this hearing because Mr. Mathison didn’t have (legal) counsel present at the July 15, 2009 hearing.”
The 62-year-old Mathison is incarcerated at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz. He was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison with the possibility of parole after being convicted in a jury trial of the murder of his wife, Yvonne. He was also sentenced to a concurrent 20-year prison term for her kidnapping.
Yvonne Mathison, who was a hostess at Ken’s House of Pancakes, died on Nov. 27, 1992, after being beaten with a pipe and run over by a van. Mathison, who was found cradling his wife’s bloodied body, said he accidentally ran his wife over with the family’s van.
The case took three years to go to trial, and the group Citizens for Justice alleged a police cover-up.
The case was prosecuted by the then-Deputy Attorney General Kurt Spohn, who said that Mathison killed his wife to collect a $500,000 insurance policy. The state’s star witness was noted forensic pathologist Henry Lee, who testified that blood spatter patterns proved that Yvonne Mathison’s death wasn’t accidental.
In 1996, the Hawaii Paroling Authority set Mathison’s minimum sentence at 25 years for the murder and 20 years for the kidnapping. That would have made him eligible for parole on Nov. 8, 2020, shortly before his 70th birthday.
At the 2009 hearing, the parole board set Mathison’s minimum prison terms at 90 years for the murder conviction and 20 years for the kidnapping conviction. The state argued that the minimum terms set in the 2009 hearing were correct and requested that the parole board leave them unchanged.
Gronna did not return a phone call seeking comment by press time.
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune- herald.com.