By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A retired Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective has admitted to intentionally beating his wife to death in their Ka‘u home in 2006.
In a deal with prosecutors, 59-year-old Daniel DeJarnette Jr. pleaded guilty March 15 to manslaughter while under extreme mental or emotional distress. He faces a possible 20-year prison term with the possibility of parole when he’s sentenced May 14 at 8:30 a.m. by Kona Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra.
Police found 56-year-old Yu DeJarnette’s body on the side of an embankment near the couple’s Ocean View home on Nov. 12, 2006. An autopsy found that she died of severe head injuries. Daniel DeJarnette, who told police that his wife had apparently fallen down the embankment, was arrested Nov. 14 and booked on suspicion of murder, but was released from police custody without being charged two days later due to insufficient evidence.
DeJarnette, who moved to the Big Island after retiring from LAPD in 2003, was indicted for second-degree murder by a Kona grand jury in May last year, a few months after Deputy Prosecutor Linda Walton took over the case.
“I saw DNA evidence; I saw pretty good police work. I saw motive (and) obviously, opportunity, since they were the only people living in that house,” Walton said Tuesday. “And I saw a story of his that was inconsistent with the DNA evidence.”
Walton said that Yu DeJarnette had told her husband that she was leaving him, and had told others at the Kona market where she sold jewelry that she was leaving her husband. During his change-of-plea hearing, DeJarnette told the court that he hit his wife twice in the head with an automobile jack stand after she had slapped him twice while in the bathroom of their home.
“I think he did his best effort to cover up the crime and make it look like it happened elsewhere other than where it happened,” Walton said. “… Since I took over the case in January 2012, we did get additional DNA evidence. The DNA and blood residue were in the bathroom of the house, her DNA and her blood, but it had been cleaned up with Clorox before the police got there.”
Walton said that the jack stand was recovered, as well.
“That’s consistent with the two injuries — either one of which was sufficient to cause her death — to the back of her head,” she said. “And it had both hers and his DNA, as well as that of an unidentifiable contributor, as well.”
“… It appeared that he had killed her in the bathroom,” Walton explained. “Police got from inside the spare bedroom in a crawl space, a black garbage bag that looked like it was dripping blood with water or Clorox or something. … When that was sent off in 2006, it came back as not being human blood. But when I saw that in the pictures, it clearly looked like me that it was not human blood. So I called the lab and asked if you mixed human blood with Clorox, is it possible that you can get a not human blood reading when it is human blood, and they said yeah.”
Asked why prosecutors decided to offer DeJarnette a plea deal on a lesser charge, Walton replied: “The one family member of both the victim clearly wanted it to be settled.” She pointed out that if DeJarnette was convicted of murder — which carries a mandatory life sentence — that his release from prison on parole still would be a possibility in the future, as it is on the manslaughter charge.
Prosecutor Mitch Roth said the homicide was solved because the case had been revisited “with a fresh set of eyes.”
“Linda Walton looked at it from a different perspective,” he said. “I can’t say enough about what she and the police did. Even though she wasn’t assigned this case on my watch, I can say that that is something we’re doing with other cases.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.