'Suspicious' blaze destroys Waimanalo building

Fire that destroyed building in Waimanalo considered 'suspicious'

WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police have opened an arson investigation after a fire destroyed a two-story building in Waimanalo early Thursday.

The building had been the scene of a murder in 2014.

More than 25 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, in the area known as Sherwood's Beach, at 3:40 a.m.

When the first crew arrived on scene at 3:47 a.m., the building known as the "caretakers home," was fully engulfed in flames.

The fire was under control by 4 a.m. and extinguished at 6:09 a.m.

Officials say the building had been unoccupied for months because of renovations.

Honolulu Fire Department Chief Damien Kahaulelio confirmed that no one was inside the building at the time of the fire.

Police said the fire was "suspicious" because the building was known to be unoccupied and witnesses said they heard laughter and voices coming from the property prior to the fire.

Kahaulelio said investigators also found a metal gas can filled with gasoline on the property.

Police determined the gas can had been at the property, but investigators are trying to determine whether someone deliberately used the gas to start the fire.

The house is considered a total loss, said Kahaulelio. Damage estimates are $300,000.

In July 2014, Jolyn Kipapa, the wife of then-caretaker Kurt Kipapa, was found murdered in the home. Police arrested the couple's 16 year-old foster son Kaonohi Kipapa.

Dave Koga, spokesman for the city Prosecutor's Office said that Kipapa is currently being held at the Juvenile Detention Center in Kapolei and will appear in court on March 28 to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Koga's information corrects earlier reports that Kipapa had been tried as an adult and convicted.

In October 2014, a Family Court judge waived jurisdiction in the case, allowing Kipapa to be tried as an adult should a trial proceed, Koga said. Kipapa made his initial court appearance on October 31, 2014, and was indicted by a grand jury for second-degree murder a week later, according to Koga.

Kipapa has pleaded not guilty.

If a judge determines that Kipapa is fit to stand trial, then a trial date will be set.

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