Teen admits drug, alcohol use prior to deadly crash

Sheila Nitta
Sheila Nitta
Tyler Duarte
Tyler Duarte

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A Waimanalo teen, accused of killing two women in a drug-involved car crash in January 2007, took responsibility during an emotional hearing Tuesday.

One night. One choice. Many lives shattered.

"Tyler Nainoa Duarte did cause the death of Michelle A. Benevedes. Tyler Nainoa Duarte did cause the death of Racquel Akau," Sheila Nitta, deputy prosecutor, ran down the list of charges.

"What is your plea?" the judge asked.

"Guilty," the defendant replied.

Tyler Duarte was 17 years old, and under the influence of alcohol and drugs, when his speeding SUV broadsided a car that was pulling out of a side street in Waimanalo. The women in the car, Michelle Benevedes, 39, and Racquel Akau, 38, were pinned inside and died instantly.

"What kind of drugs?" the judge asked.

"Marijuana," Duarte replied.

"Just marijuana?" the judge asked.

"And cocaine," the teen replied.

He pleads guilty to two counts of first-degree negligent homicide and one count of failure to render aid, sparing the victims' family members the rigors of a full-blown trial.

"The excruciating pain of, you know, pictures and evidence and hearing the things that happen in a negligent homicide case when two people are killed instantly," Nitta said.

Duarte's family and his attorney decline comment.

The now 18-year-old faces a punishment ranging from probation to 60 years in prison.

"It's something that he will have to live with all of his life, too," Nitta said. "And the lesson is don't drink, don't use drugs, and don't drive when you've done those things."

Duarte, unable to post $30,000 bail, has been in custody since May. His sentencing is set for October 2nd.