Punahou St. homicide suspect indicted - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Punahou St. homicide suspect indicted

Vernon Baker (in white) in court Vernon Baker (in white) in court
Mary Beth San Juan Mary Beth San Juan
San Juan's sisters: Ann Engebretson & Jill Myer San Juan's sisters: Ann Engebretson & Jill Myer
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The man accused in the gruesome death of a realtor and actress has been indicted for second degree murder.

Police say Vernon Baker stabbed Mary Beth San Juan to death and left her body gagged, bound and wrapped in a rug in the driveway of her Punahou Street home office. 

41-year-old Baker was also indicted on two counts of drug promotion and one count of drug paraphernalia. He has plead not guilty.  His bail is set at $200,000.

Family members confirm Mary Beth was acquainted with Baker, but won't discuss specifics. 

"I hope that he's not out on the streets ever again, but that's not my call, so I will trust justice to take its course the way its supposed to," said Ann Engebretson, Mary Beth's older sister, who spoke with her on the phone the Friday before she was found.

"We want justice to be served. We really want justice to be served. The format that takes is not in our hands," said Jill Myer, Mary Beth's younger sister. 

Instead of the attention being directed at Baker, family members hope the focus will be on Mary Beth's life and legacy. 

Myer says she hopes Mary Beth will be remembered "as someone who was kind, who brightened a room just with her presence and who was always upbeat and positive and wanted everyone to do well and be successful and happy."

"She was just a free spirit filled with love and joy and wanted happiness and peace for everybody," said Engebretson, before adding Mary Beth didn't pick and choose who she was nice to, but was kind to everyone. 

"My daughter said she made friends with anyone that was in a 50 foot radius," described Myer, who says the family finds comfort in knowing Mary Beth had found a relationship with God in the weeks prior to her death. 

Engebretson and Myer should be preparing for the 10-day "sister" trip they had scheduled for next week, instead they're planning Mary Beth's funeral.  The last time all three sisters were together was at their father's service this past March.  Myer says they planned the sister visit because "life is short".

"It's not fair and it shouldn't have happened. It's not what's supposed to happen to anybody, much less our sister, but Bethy wouldn't want us to be dwelling on what we can't change.  She would want us to focus on the good that's going to come out of this. She would want us to remember her with love and with joy, not with sorrow and bitterness and anger.  So that's what we're going to try to do," explained Engebretson. 

Family members have invited friends of Mary Beth's to line the driveway of her Punahou Street home office where her body was found with flowers. 

"We'd like people to cover up the ugliness that took place there with the beauty of flowers," said Myer. 

Word of the family's request quickly spread via Facebook and friends, and one by one people arrived at Mary Beth's home Thursday afternoon to celebrate her life by leaving flowers, lei and messages of love.  

"I drew a picture. It's a cross a rose and the Lord's hand. In memory of her, for the family," described Margaret Ruiz, who never knew Mary Beth, but said she met her family while walking by the home the other day and was touched by their positive spirit. 

John Weaver was in acting class with Mary Beth. 

"She was just the loveliest woman and anytime she walked in it really brightened up the room. It's really sad," said Weaver. 

Don Persons used to sit in the desk across from her when she worked for him at Gold Coast Real Estate. 

"She always wanted to make everybody happy and do the right things for people and help people out—just someone to look up to. When we'd get down or discouraged she always had that big smile," said Persons, adding Mary Beth was a person "who left the Earth better than when she got here".

A wall outside Mary Beth's home, once covered with graffiti, has been repainted with the message "LOVE" – a fitting tribute, according to family and friends.

"What we're trying to do now is to transmute the violence in the world and just remember that we are all made of love, and love is what will carry us to the end," said Sister Malia Dominica Wong, who knew Mary Beth when she practiced the Sufi tradition.

Mary Beth's sisters say they're still "mostly numb".  The family has planned a memorial this Saturday at Nu'uanu Memorial Park & Mortuary.  Visitation starts at 5 p.m., with the service to follow at 6 p.m. Engebretson says it will be hopeful and joyous in honor of "Bethy's love and life", which she says has, even in the end, managed to help others.

According to Myer and Engebretson, the family was sitting outside Mary Beth's ex-husband's home spending time together when they heard a woman cry for help.  They raced down the street to find an elderly woman hanging from the edge of her roof.  Engebretson says if they hadn't gotten there when they did, she would have been seriously injured or could have died.

"We just said, Bethy was here helping," recalled Engebretson.

"Good always, always wins – and that was confirmation for us that it's true.  It can be tragic and it won't take away the tragedy. We can't change that, but good can still come of that," said Myer.

Related Story:

Punahou Street murder suspect pleads not guilty, new evidence revealed

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