By CHELSEA JENSEN
A 60-year-old retired Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective was sentenced to two decades in prison for intentionally beating his wife of 28 years to death in their Ka‘u home in 2006.
Daniel DeJarnette Jr. was ordered Wednesday to serve up to 20 years in prison and pay $505 in fees in connection with the November 2006 death of his wife, Yu DeJarnette, by 3rd Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra in South Kona. The Hawaii Paroling Authority will determine Daniel’s actual
sentence term during a future hearing.
In an unusual move during a sentencing hearing, Daniel declined to speak. Instead, he pointed to a letter he submitted to the court that was subsequently placed under seal as part of the case’s pre-sentencing investigation report.
His daughter, Deatrice, who was present during the hearing, did not make a statement, having provided a letter beforehand, but did hug her father before he was escorted away by sheriffs to an awaiting transport vehicle.
Daniel pleaded guilty to manslaughter as part of a plea deal with prosecutors on March 15. He was slated to be sentenced May 14, however, sentencing was delayed because of problems within the Public Defender’s office, according to court records.
In his plea deal for the reduced charge, Daniel admitted he hit his wife twice in the head with an automobile jack stand after she slapped him twice in the couple’s bathroom. Daniel, who moved to the Big Island after retiring from the LAPD in 2003, was indicted in May 2012 on second-degree murder by a Kona grand jury.
Police found 56-year-old Yu’s body on the side of an embankment near the couple’s Ocean View home on Nov. 12, 2006. An autopsy determined she died of severe head injuries. Daniel, who told police that his wife had apparently fallen down the embankment, was arrested shortly thereafter on suspicion of murder, but was released from custody without being charged two days later because of insufficient evidence.
Prior to Daniel’s actual sentence being handed down, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Linda Walton painted a picture of the couple’s relationship and the months and days before Yu’s death. She also provided additional details about the killing.
Daniel had been married to Yu for 28 years at the time of the Nov. 11, 2006, murder. Yu, whom Daniel met in China and brought back to the U.S., was a housewife while Daniel was a member of the LAPD, said Walton.
The couple moved to Ocean View in 2003 after Daniel retired from the LAPD, Walton said. Yu, she said, eventually felt isolated there and began using the family vehicle to travel to Kona where should would sell jewelry at the Kona International Market. She’d often be gone more than 12 hours a day, leaving the home around 6 a.m.
On Nov. 11, 2006, Walton said, Yu told Daniel she was leaving him. She’d also told friends about her plans and was saving money to rent an apartment in Kona. She also indicated she would ask for half of Daniel’s LAPD pension and the home.
Around 9:30 a.m., Nov. 12, 2006, Yu’s body was found on the embankment. Police investigating her death located $1,600 in her purse, said Walton.
Daniel, she said, summoned police and medical personnel to the home between 9 and 9:15 a.m. He told investigators he woke up around 9 a.m., saw the family’s vehicle was still there and then found her body on the embankment. Daniel, she said, assumed Yu fell while hanging laundry.
Though he has now admitted to killing his wife, striking her twice with an automotive jack leaving each time a “huge, gaping wound,” Walton said Daniel’s current story, isn’t the full story.
According to Walton, Daniel said he was trying to repair tiles in the bathroom around 5 a.m. when Yu told him she was leaving. When she tried, he hit her twice with the auto jack, causing her to fall to the floor. He then wrapped a garbage bag around her head and placed her body on the embankment.
Paint chips embedded in Yu’s skull matched paint samples from the jack, she said. Blood drops, blood specks found in tile grout and a hair scrunchy dripping blood in the shower all tested positive for Yu’s DNA, Walton said.
Walton also countered Daniel’s version that he wrapped Yu’s head in a bag after she fell and then placed her on the embankment.
Rather, she said, Yu didn’t fall to the floor as no blood pool was found; her head was also likely within the shower because police located a garbage bag filled with a mix of water and blood tucked away in a crawl space in a spare bedroom. The blood in the bag tested positive for Yu’s DNA.
Walton also said her body wasn’t “placed,” but rather, either shortly before or after death, dragged over lava rocks, scratching most of her body, before being left on the embankment.
Daniel also scattered bleached underwear around Yu and rocks in the area in an attempt to stage a fall, Walton added.
Walton went on further to outline DeJarnette’s actions following Yu’s death, including attempting to collect within about six months a life insurance policy he purchased a year prior for Yu, and a taking out a $100,000 loan against his Ocean View home to defend himself following her death. That money was never spent on his defense, Walton said adding that just $30,000 had been paid back.
“He did it for pecuniary gain,” Walton said just before requesting Ibarra sentence DeJarnette to 20 years in prison. “He did not want to share the value of his house or pension with his wife.”
Deputy Public Defender Besty Stuelke countered that Daniel pleaded guilty to manslaughter for intentionally killing his wife while under “extreme mental or emotional distress.”
“There was something about it that was very different from their arguments before and he was overwhelmed mentally and emotionally and struck her twice with the jack stand,” she said. “He does regret it and he will continue to regret it everyday.”
She also pointed out that Daniel’s story of what happened is every bit as valid as the state’s “presumption” of what happened that day. Much of the information that Walton spoke of during the sentencing hearing would have been deemed inadmissible for trial, she said.
“The bottom line is Mrs. DeJarnette was killed and he is now answering for his behavior,” Stuelke said.
She later noted it is tragic that a man who’d dedicated himself to helping others was now a “perpetrator of such magnitude.”
Email Chelsea Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.