By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 50-year-old Honomu man who stabbed his housemate to death will not go to prison — at the request of the victim’s family.
Daniel Schuster was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter in September for the slaying of 30-year-old Joshua Trickel on July 22, 2012, at Schuster’s Pua Street home. Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara also sentenced Schuster to two years in jail with credit for time served. Schuster, who could have received a 20-year prison term, spent almost 15 months in jail before his release on Sept. 6. He won’t return to jail if he complies with conditions of his probation, which also include 400 hours of community service.
Schuster was originally charged with second-degree murder — which carries a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole — as well as third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug. Two glass pipes and a ziplock bag, all containing methamphetamine residue, were found in Schuster’s home.
The plea deal with prosecutors was struck at the request of Trickel’s mother, Leslie Peters, and one of his sisters.
“She strongly recommended and supported the plea agreement,” Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Kagawa said afterwards. Kagawa added that Peters is giving Schuster “a chance to make a change in his life … as we said in court, to find a way to honor the life of Joshua.” Kagawa said she’d never seen such compassion in her time as a prosecutor.
“It was very unusual to see somebody so forgiving and so compassionate for Schuster,” Kagawa said. “… She put in her letter, ‘The sentence you put on yourself is far worse than anything the courts could do. Know that we do care. We pray for you and we want you to succeed, and we want you to remember Joshua and the gift that he has given you because he was your friend.’”
Stanton Oshiro, Schuster’s court-appointed attorney, told the court that his client “has accepted responsibility for what as occurred in this case” and is “obviously very regretful of what happened.”
“He’s kind of taken aback, judge, he doesn’t know what to do, so he’s trying to digest the letters … and basically fulfill the desires and the wishes that are expressed by Joshua’s mom and his sister,” Oshiro said. “How he’s going to do that, he hasn’t quite decided. It may involve speaking to students about drug use. He’s really not sure about that yet. He’s not the most confident of speakers.”
Schuster’s voice was barely audible as he told the judge: “I wish I could turn back the clock and things were different than they are now. I think about Josh every day.”
Schuster told Hara that he is a psychiatric nurse and was previously an emergency room orderly.
“Then I think you have an appreciation more than most of how fragile life is and how resilient it is,” the judge replied. “I think the fragileness is illustrated by the victim’s death here. Hopefully, the resilience will be found by you.”
“The thing that strikes me about this case is I think the letters I’ve received from the victim’s mother and sister are among the most compassionate that this court has ever experienced,” Hara continued. “… Hopefully, you’ll cherish the gift that they’re trying to bestow on you, which is more than the court can do, and that’s forgiveness.”
Peters, who lives in Wisconsin, said by phone afterwards that her son, despite his own problems with drugs, was a forgiving person and would have wanted this. Her recommendation of leniency is a change of heart from August 2012, when she told the Tribune-Herald she hoped Schuster “spends the rest of his life in prison.”
“I said he’s been in jail for over a year and my son has never come home,” Peters said. “So what is it gonna do for Daniel to be in prison? They had horrible childhoods, both of them. That’s what made them the people they are. I was always there for my son. Daniel had nobody. He had no family to go to.
“Were they good for each other? No, no they weren’t. My son was in a bad place but he was an adult. They just got mixed up and went in the wrong direction and things got out of hand and I don’t think for a minute that Daniel meant to kill my son. I think something happened in a split second and it was a second in his life that he could never take back. And there is no prison sentence in the world that is more harsh than the one that Daniel has to live with the rest of his life.
“I told Daniel that I just pray you can forgive yourself. We can forgive you, but you have to forgive yourself. And I want to see you move forward and reach out to kids who are on drugs and talk to them and tell them what drugs did to you and what it cost you. If you can save one kid, my son didn’t die for no reason.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.