Jury finds Niu Valley man guilty of attempted murder in brutal stabbing at Kahala Beach
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A jury on Thursday found a 19-year-old man guilty in the brutal Kahala Beach stabbing of a woman he didn’t know.
Erik Willis was convicted of second-degree attempted murder in the July 2020 attack on Melia Kalahiki, who sustained 15 stab wounds and was left in critical condition.
The jury delivered their decision after just nine hours of deliberations.
Willis’ attorney, Eric Seitz, said he plans to appeal.
“We’re not done. We’re not done here. I don’t think this case is going to withstand scrutiny,” said Seitz. “But I’m uttterly disgusted. I’m utterly disgusted by the kind of hysteria that exists in this community.”
When the verdict was read out, Willis had no visible reaction.
He is set to be sentenced on July 14 and faces a mandatory sentence of life behind bars with the possibility of parole. Pending his sentencing, he’ll remain at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, where he has been held without bail since July 2020.
In closing arguments Wednesday, the prosecution sought to underscore the grisly and unprovoked nature of the attack.
“The attack was cowardly, vicious and it was Erik Willis ... who stabbed and tried to kill Melia that day on the beach,” Deputy Prosecutor Lawrence Sousie said earlier this week
In trying to make his case to the jury, Sousie relied heavily on the victim’s testimony identifying Willis as her attacker. He also relied on surveillance camera video showing Willis several blocks from the attack.
But the prosecutor did not present any physical evidence linking Willis to the attack or as having been at the exact scene of the crime.
“There is significant circumstantial evidence that points to the defendant,” said Sousie.
Willis’ lawyer Jonathan Loo shot back: “It’s not circumstantial evidence. It’s speculation. That’s what the prosecution is asking you to do. They have huge gaps in their case.”
Loo also pointed to Kalahiki’s testimony on Tuesday, where she said she was unable to identify Willis or anybody else as her attacker during three separate lineups provided by police days after the attack.
He also introduced reports showing that the victim tested positive for meth and valium when she was admitted to the hospital. Kalahiki denied using the drugs.
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