By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A teenage girl was an eyewitness to the Feb. 11 shotgun slaying of her mother and grandmother at their Hilo home, according to a relative.
“She saw everything,” said Carol Luciano, sister of 74-year-old Elaine Ahu and aunt of 45-year-old Rhonda Lynn Alohalani Ahu, referring to the younger woman’s daughter, who was 15 at the time of the double homicide.
Sean Ivan Masa Matsumoto, Rhonda Ahu’s longtime boyfriend, was arrested at the scene and charged with the shootings.
Matsumoto and Rhonda Ahu’s 6-year-old son, the girl’s half-brother, was also at the Waiakea Houselots home when the late-night shooting occurred.
“Those innocent children, you know,” Luciano said. “They’re holding up OK, but every time I talk to my grandniece, which is Rhonda’s daughter, she remembers everything. … You know, it’s so hard for them. But other than that, I keep in touch with them almost every other day.”
The boy was asleep, Luciano said, “but he asked his sister, ‘Why did he shoot them?’ So it’s hard.”
Luciano said that Rhonda Ahu purchased the .12-gauge Mossman shotgun police recovered at the Leilani Street home “just prior to this happening.”
“He persuaded her to buy the gun,” added DeeDee Pacheco, a cousin to both slain women.
Court documents filed by police state that Matsumoto called 911 after the shootings “to report that he just shot two people in his residence.” He also told a dispatcher “he felt that his ‘girlfriend was cheating’ on him, and that her ‘mother hated’ him,” documents state.
Three mental health professionals could not reach agreement on whether the 34-year-old Matsumoto is fit for trial, with two declaring him fit and the third finding him unfit.
Hilo Circuit Judge Nakamura set a contested hearing to determine Matsumoto’s fitness for trial on Oct. 18 at 10:30 a.m.
Matsumoto has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, two counts each of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, three other firearms offenses, and reckless endangering. A first-degree murder conviction would mean a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole, but trial is on hold until Matsumoto’s fitness is decided.
Matsumoto is being held without bail at Hawaii Community Correctional Center. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng, asked the judge on Friday to set bail for his client.
“We argue that under (Hawaii Revised Statutes section) 804-3 (b) he doesn’t qualify for being held without bail,” Ng said.
Deputy Prosecutor Lucas Burns objected to the bail request “based on the nature of the offenses alleged in this matter.”
Nakamura didn’t rule on the bail request and instructed Ng to put the motion in writing, adding “the burden will be put on the state” to show why Matsumoto should continue to be held without bail.
The law cited by Ng states that bail should be set unless “there is a serious risk that the person will flee; there is a serious risk that the person will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice, or therefore, injure, or intimidate, or attempt to thereafter, injure, or intimidate, a prospective witness or juror; there is a serious risk that the person poses a danger to any person or the community; or there is a serious risk that the person will engage in illegal activity.”
Both Luciano and Pacheco are opposed to bail for Matsumoto.
“No, no, no!” Pacheco said afterward.
Added Luciano: “No, he shouldn’t have any bail. He should be locked up and throw the key away, and away from the Big Island. Away because nobody wants to see him. When he walked in the courtroom, I covered my eyes because I didn’t want to see his face after what he did.
“Every dog has his day and his is coming pretty quick. What he did was so uncalled for.”
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune- herald.com.