Trial begins for man accused of killing Oahu teacher

Published On: Oct 08 2012 06:30:00 PM HST   Updated On: Oct 09 2012 06:57:00 PM HST

More than 3 1/2 years after Oahu teacher 43-year-old Asa Yamashita was stabbed to death at the Ewa Shopping Center, the trial for the man accused of killing her began Monday.

Attorneys for the suspect say their client is either a murderer or mentally deranged.

Tittleman Fauatea admitted coming to court under the influence of drugs.  But, the drugs he's taking are to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

"We've got a young man at about age 12 who started to exhibit symptoms of mental illness," said attorney Barry Sooalo.  "This is a well-documented history.  Going back to Moanalua Middle School.  It's extensive."

His trial in the stabbing death of Yamashita, which happened in February of 2009, had been delayed until Fauatea was determined to be mentally fit.  But, his attorney says at the time of the killing Fauatea was insane.

One witness even described the bizarre behavior by Fauatea, who had stopped by shopping center for a haircut months before the attack.

"He's all sweaty.  His eyes all red.  He looks lost like crazy people," said hairstylist Oy Sisomvang.

Witnesses described how Fauatea bought a knife at a nearby store, walked outside and repeatedly stabbed Yamashita.

But, the prosecutor says Fauatea did not act insane since he then got rid of the evidence, left the scene and even denied his involvement to the arresting officer.

"He approached the defendant, and without being asked any questions, the defendant uttered, 'I don't have anything.  I dumped the knife,'" said deputy prosecutor Wayne Tashima.

Just minutes before the attack, one witness even said Fauatea seemed just like everyone else.

"How did the defendant act?" asked the prosecuting attorney.  "Normal," responded Dean Hashimoto of the Ewa Seed Company.

"What do you mean," asked Tashima.  "He smiled.  Said 'Howzit.'  I said, 'Howzit' back," said Hashimoto.

A man who witnessed the attack also took the witness stand.  He described what he saw as he backed up his pickup truck into a parking stall.

"I seen one guy grab the lady's arm.  He had one knife in his hand.  Started stabbing 'em," said Darin Paiwa.

Paiwa also described how he followed Fauatea after the alleged stabbing.  He said Fauatea threw a knife into some bushes, walked down Fort Weaver Road and asked a bystander for a cigarette.

Many were at the shopping center during the stabbing, but Asa's husband Bryan was not.  He arrived a short time later to pick up his wife.  He was called to the hospital where Asa was in cardiac arrest from six stab wounds to her heart.  He didn't get a chance to see her before she died or even after her death.

"When I got there, I was told she had already died.  And I was told because her body was evidence, I could only see a digital picture of her," said Bryan Yamashita.

Instead of a jury trial, Judge Rom Trader will decide Fauatea's fate.


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