2 accused in gruesome Wahiawa murder acquitted

2 accused in gruesome Wahiawa murder acquitted
(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two men accused in the 2015 murder of a 65-year-old Wahiawa man were acquitted by a jury Friday afternoon.

It was a case that depended on the testimony of a woman who admitted to shooting — but not killing — William "Bill" Aki in his Whitmore Village home in 2015. She also acknowledged that Aki supported her drug habit in exchange for sex.

"It was a long trial, jurors worked really hard, put a lot of thought into it and we think it was a fair result very grateful," said defense attorney Steve Nichols.

Much of the case was based on the testimony of Anjelita Rasa, the victim's former live-in girlfriend. She had admitted in her testimony that she had ambushed Aki, but hadn't killed him.

Last month, she pleaded guilty to robbery, taking a 20-year prison term.

In return, she testified against her ex-boyfriend, Shaun Branco-Taguchi, and his cousin, Shane Rodrigues.

Jurors found Branco-Taguchi not guilty of second-degree murder. Rodrigues was found not guilty of being an accomplice to murder.

There were tears of relief from defendants' family as the verdicts were read.

Although acquitted of the murder charge, Branco-Taguchi was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and arson. Rodriques was acquitted of those same charges.

In June 2015, police found Aki's body in his Wahiawa home with gunshot wounds to his chest and head. They found his burned-out car near Makua Cave.

In the end, Rasa's testimony was undercut by the fact that she used Aki for money, his car and a place to stay.

In a statement, deputy Prosecutor Scott Spallina said, "We recognize there was some criticism of the plea agreement with Ms. Rasa, but it was our job to attempt to hold accountable everyone responsible for this crime against an older person."

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