Suspect in brutal killing appears in court on kidnapping charge

Suspect in brutal killing appears in court on kidnapping charge

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The suspect accused of brutally killing a Kaneohe man and then dumping his body just off a hunting trail appeared in court Friday, but not on a murder charge.

Keone Labatad is so far only charged with kidnapping in connection with the death of 38-year-old Benjamin Awong, whose body was found by hunters May 15 off Old Kalanianaole Highway.

But officials say more charges are expected.

Police said Awong had been bound and beaten. And court records released Friday revealed the victim was likely killed four to five days before his body was found.

Labatad remains behind bars on the kidnapping charge and his bail has been set at $500,000.

According to court documents, a witness told police that on May 10 he saw Labatad strike Awong in the face with a handgun and threaten to shoot him.

The witness heard Labatad say, “You scream or yell for help, I’ll shoot you.”

The witness said Labatad then put Awong into a waiting vehicle. At that point, the victim was bleeding profusely, police said, and left a “trail of blood leading” from where he’d been assaulted to the car.

Labatad is expected back in court on Tuesday.

The suspect has 60 prior arrests, and faced an attempted murder charge in 2002 but pleaded guilty to a lesser assault charge and served 10 years in prison.

Records also show Labatad was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in Kahuku in 2015 after a 54-year-old victim reported being choked, stabbed and hit with a metal bar.

Labatad was released pending investigation and never charged.

Labatad also served time in 2017 for second-degree robbery and has been on probation for domestic violence charges.

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