HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Family members of a woman who was shot and killed at a housing complex for senior citizens say their lives have been shattered by her sudden and violent death.
The victim's relatives tearfully spoke at the convicted killer's sentencing Wednesday. But they left the courthouse without knowing what Melvin Yoshida's punishment will be.
Melvin Yoshida dropped his head and fought back tears, as 12-year-old Trysta Chellette talked about her beloved grandmother's brutal killing.
"She didn't deserve it," the little girl said through tears. "She always gave. She never took anything away."
Clare Silva, 54, was gunned down in her own apartment at Punchbowl Homes -- a public housing complex for senior citizens and disabled people -- on April 12, 2009. Her son-in-law, Brian Riordan, was serving with the Navy in Afghanistan when he got the crippling news.
"I couldn't believe it. I was putting myself in harm's way, away from my family, to defend the rights and the freedom that people here possess," Riordan said. "My mother-in-law, my mom, was violently murdered. It doesn't make any sense."
Other tenants at the complex say Yoshida had been pursuing Silva, who just wanted to be friends with him.
Under a deal with prosecutors, the defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter and a firearms offense last year. Yoshida, now 72 years old, agreed to serve a 20-year prison term.
But on Wednesday, deputy prosecutor Darrell Wong asked for a 40-year sentence, a move that was permitted under the plea agreement.
"What crime can be more serious than the intentional and premeditated taking of a human life?" Wong said.
Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario expressed concerns over the prosecution's premeditation arguments, which seemed to support a murder charge, not manslaughter.
Deputy public defender Darcia Forester maintains Yoshida was suffering from extreme mental or emotional distress at the time of the shooting.
"My client was suicidal on that day," Forester said. "He had already written a suicide note. The loaded gun was to kill himself. It was not intended at the beginning of that day for any other person."
The judge decided to hear further arguments on Thursday, meaning the victim's grieving family from Mississippi will have to wait at least one more day for closure.