LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Kauai man accused of pushing a Japanese visitor off a cliff in December was wanted for crimes in another state. Justin Wynn Klein, 37, was arraigned on Tuesday in Circuit Court on Kauai. He entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of second-degree attempted murder.
A witness reported seeing Klein throw a 31-year-old Japanese visitor from a cliff in the Kalalau Valley on December 16. Azusa Ino, also known as Shita, was taken to Wilcox Hospital in critical condition. She later returned to Japan with her family.
After a nearly four-month manhunt, police caught Klein on Saturday at Lydgate Park. Klein told his sister, Jody Pearson, that he was romantically involved with the victim. Pearson said he moved to Kauai from Oregon last May.
"When he left for Hawaii he was already on probation and facing going to court on some additional charges, and he decided to run, I guess. I don't know why or how or what transpired," said Jody Pearson during a telephone interview from Georgia.
According to authorities, Klein's rap sheet in Oregon includes reckless endangering, drug offenses and arson. He was convicted of starting a fire inside Eugene Christian Fellowship in 2010. He violated his probation and was also wanted for allegedly possessing methamphetamine. A bench warrant caught the attention of Kauai police when he was arrested a month before the tourist attack for driving without a license, but the District Attorney's Office in Lane County decided not to seek an extradition since the sheriff couldn't guarantee that there would be room for Klein at the overcrowded jail.
"Justice is not being served here (in Lane County) and I don't see it changing dramatically in the foreseeable future. Our sheriff's office is incredibly underfunded and staffed, and our jail is barely functioning," said Patty Perlow, Lane County's chief deputy district attorney.
Klein's sister questioned the decision not to send him back to Oregon.
"If he had been extradited initially, before this happened, we wouldn't be in this circumstance. So I do blame Oregon for part of it because Oregon already knew that he had been in a mental hospital previously," said Pearson.
According to Perlow, Lane County has 152 jail beds for a population of 350,000. She said if Klein had been extradited, he would have faced a 60-day sentence, but probably wouldn't have spent more than 6 days behind bars.
"We can't change the fact that we don't have a functioning jail, so there aren't a lot of options for us," said Perlow.
Klein's bail is $1 million. His trial on Kauai is set for August.