First day of trial includes chilling details of teen’s near-fatal stabbing at East Oahu beach
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After nearly two years, the trial has begun for an East Oahu man accused of brutally stabbing a teenage girl at Kahala Beach.
Erik Willis, 19, is charged with second-degree attempted murder.
Willis sat quietly with his defense team as he listened to the prosecution’s opening remarks Monday morning. “For Melia Kalahiki, July 8, 2020 started out as a special day of celebration. A day to always remember. But turned into a nightmare she will never forget,” said prosecutor Lawrence Sousie.
The prosecutor said Kalahiki just learned she’d met her requirements to graduate from Kalani High School. She was 17 at the time.
“While she was laying on her stomach, she felt weight of a man on her back. Felt a left hand come around, cover her mouth, pull her head back. Then she felt the stabs.”
Kalahiki was rushed into emergency surgery after being repeatedly stabbed in the neck, shoulder and hands.
“We live in a world where there’s very little that you that cannot be captured by surveillance,” said Sousie. “Big brother’s always watching.”
He told jurors during the trial they would see surveillance video from several homes and and The Bus, that allegedly places Willis near the scene of the crime.
Defense attorney Eric Seitz addressed the jury next, saying at the end of the trial they will “undoubtedly have many questions,” including “Is that Erik Willis in the video?”
Seitz said there were several witnesses in the area where the attack occurred.
“But none of them can identify Erik Willis as the attacker,” he said.
“There will be no physical evidence linking Erik Willis to the scene of the stabbing. No knife, no fingerprints, no blood samples. No comparisons. Nothing. There will be no motive or explanation or reason offered by any witnesses for the attack.”
The director of safety and security for Oahu Transit Services as well as several HPD officers took the stand Friday, and all of them verified the authenticity of surveillance video evidence in the case.
The jury also heard from a young woman who was on the beach when the attack happened.
She told the jury her view of victim was obscured behind a palm frond and that initially she thought what she saw was a couple being intimate before realizing Kalahiki had been stabbed.
“I looked down to continue working but something felt suspicious,” she said.
“So I looked back to my left then a man’s head popped up and made eye contact with me. And then I looked back down for a few seconds. And then he got up when I returned to look and he started running the other direction.”
She testified that she gave police a description of the suspect that afternoon but was unable to identify Willis during a physical lineup a few days later.
HPD Corporal Matthew Motas also took the stand.
While reviewing surveillance footage, the officer said he recognized the man identifying him as Willis.
He said the teen’s grandparents were family friends and that he spent five months mentoring the young man starting back in 2015.
“I took him to the gym with me, we did boxing and weightlifting. Just working and showing him there’s better avenues of your time.”
Sousie asked how often he’d spend time with Willis.
Motas responded, “Sometimes everyday. Sometimes three or four times a week.” He testified that he was able to identify Willis in nearly all the videos that placed him near the crime scene.
Meanwhile, the defense questioned the corporal and several other officers, asking about a vacant lot near the where the victim was stabbed.
They testified there is a homeless camp nearby and the area is known for drug use.
Friday’s testimony wrapped up about 3 p.m. Court is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
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