Cold case murder trial gets underway - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Cold case murder trial gets underway

Darnell Griffin Darnell Griffin
Kevin Takata, Kevin Takata,
Edward Aquino Edward Aquino
Evelyn Luka Evelyn Luka

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - After being a cold case for eight years, the slaying of a young woman, who was found unconscious on the side of a freeway on Oahu, finally goes to trial. On Thursday, jurors heard opening statements in Darnell Griffin's murder trial.

Darnell Griffin flashes a smile before his murder trial begins.

"You may be seated," the court bailiff announced while pounding the gavel.

Griffin is accused of raping and strangling Evelyn Luka, 20, after meeting her at Venus Nite Club in September 1999.

"After a night of dancing, all Evelyn Luka wanted, all she needed was a ride home," Kevin Takata, deputy prosecutor, said.

She was later found battered along the H-2 Freeway near Ka Uka Boulevard.

"She was unconscious and convulsing," Takata said. "The witnesses described her flailing away with her hands and feet."

Luka died about a month later.

Eight years later, prosecutors say DNA evidence taken from the victim matched Griffin's DNA profile.

But the defense says the two had consensual sex two days before she was found by the freeway, and that police failed to thoroughly investigate all leads.

"Witnesses will tell you that Evelyn Luka left in a green Nissan Pathfinder with a military sticker, no back spare tire and a tow hitch," Edward Aquino, deputy public defender, said. "Darnell's Nissan Pathfinder was black. He had no tow hitch and, in fact, had a large spare tire in the back."

The defendant's DNA profile is in the national database because he was convicted of murdering another woman back in 1980. That information is being kept from the jury.

"Whoever left Evelyn Luka unconscious on Ka Uka Boulevard was a mystery in 1999," Aquino said. "It is a mystery today as we sit in this courtroom, and at the end of this case, the evidence will show that it remains a mystery."

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