Murder Suspect Opts Out of Plea Agreement

Murder defendant Ronald Howe in court Wednesday.
Murder defendant Ronald Howe in court Wednesday.
Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario
Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- A man who agreed to spend the rest of his life behind bars changed his mind and demanded a trial Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Ronald Howe killed a Kapahulu woman during a drug dispute two years ago.

"I didn't kill this girl," Ronald Howe, murder defendant, said.

Despite earlier pleading 'no contest' to murdering 46-year-old Robyn Nakaji, Howe now says he witnessed two others carrying out the vicious attack.

"I opened the door, and Robyn was on the floor by my sister's hallway door," he said. "And these guys were just beating her."

Facing the rest of his life in prison, the 49-year-old now wants a trial. He says he had taken the fall to protect his family.

"I never like these guys come back," he said. "If they did that to her, they could do that to my family."

Workers at a goat farm in Ewa discovered Nakaji's body, wrapped in a blanket, in April 2004. Prosecutors say the defendant's story keeps changing.

"This is your third version of what happened, right?" Kevin Takata, deputy prosecutor, said.

The judge told the defendant his murder trial had been pending for some time, and that there was ample opportunity for him to raise his concerns. The judge denied the defense motion to withdraw the 'no contest' plea, and then denied the defense request to delay sentencing.

The victim's relatives enter the courtroom, and talk about their loss.

"I'm here to speak on her behalf because she can not speak for herself," Earlynn Delizo, victim's sister in law, said. "She was killed so violently, so heinously. And he didn't care."

The judge sentenced Howe to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. Howe's attorney says he will appeal.