HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Hawaii State Hospital patient has been found guilty of second-degree murder Thursday following the brutal attack of an unsuspecting Waianae High School teacher in 2009.
Investigators say Tittleman Fauatea went to the Ewa Town Center in February 2009, unwrapped a kitchen knife he just bought from Longs Drugs, and repeatedly stabbed 43-year-old Asa Yamashita, who was sitting on a bench outside, in what prosecutors called an apparently random attack.
A defense attorney said during the trial that Fauatea, who was 25 years old at the time, wasn't in his right mind at the time of the attack and he should be found innocent by reason of insanity.
Circuit Court Judge Rom Trader said Thursday it was clear that Fauatea killed Yamashita, but central to the court's decision was whether or not he was, under law, responsible or otherwise excused by reason of his mental disease, disorder or defect at the time.
"All of the experts agree, every single one of them, that the defendant at the time was suffering from a bona fide invalid and serious mental illness," Trader said. "There's no doubt about that."
However, the state contended otherwise.
"While the defendant clearly demonstrated in their view, that while his ability to know right from wrong to control himself at that time may have been impaired to some extent, it certainly did not rise in their level to what's required by the law to exculpate him for his responsibility in his crime," Trader said. "In other words, they did not believe it rose to the level of substantial impairment."
Following multiple examinations and interviews by doctors and behavioral health specialists, it was in the court's view that Fauatea was "malingering by deliberately withholding information and/or by deliberately exaggerating his symptoms and thought processes at the time of the defense to make himself look more impaired or less responsible for his actions."
City Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima said Fauatea's disorder has been a major concern from the very beginning.
"His disorder did impair him to a certain extent but it all depends on how the judge looks at it and what he factors in in terms of the background as well as the facts of the case to make that determination," Tashima said.
Yamashita's family members -- including her husband Bryan and sister Rae Shimabukuro -- were present in the court room as the judge read the verdict, hoping to find closure in what they described as a "rough four years."
"Today was a hard day for me," Bryan Yamashita said. "I think we're all kind of relieved that it's finally come to some kind of fruition. It's been a long time."
Choking back tears, Shimabukuro said her beloved younger sister had the biggest heart in the smallest body and always thought the best in people.
"Although we feared for her being so little, she had no fear," Shimabukuro said. "She never thought one minute about changing schools or that she was ever in danger and I think maybe that's why she got caught the way she did."
She said it was a very "iffy" morning for the family prior to the ruling so she was thankful for the judge's decision.
"The main thing we want everyone to know is that this man cannot come out and do this to anyone else again and put any other family through what he put us through," Shimabukuro said.
Fauatea faces a mandatory life in prison with the possibility of parole at his sentencing on June 25.
Asa Yamashita leaves behind two daughters, ages 9 and 11.