Collins guilty of murder, gun charges in slaying of former star quarterback

Published: Dec. 28, 2011 at 4:28 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 28, 2011 at 11:59 PM HST
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Makuola Collins found guilty of second-degree murder
Makuola Collins found guilty of second-degree murder
Photo of victim Joel Botelho
Photo of victim Joel Botelho
David Hayakawa, defense attorney
David Hayakawa, defense attorney
Nonohe Botelho, victim's mother
Nonohe Botelho, victim's mother
Wayne Tashima, deputy prosecutor
Wayne Tashima, deputy prosecutor

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was a case that rocked a tight-knit community in Kaneohe. Gunfire under the cover of darkness, a former high school football star dead.

On Wednesday, a jury of seven men and five women found the man accused of the crime guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder, and three firearms charges.

The panel received the case last week Wednesday. After lengthy deliberations, it rejected one of the charges -- first-degree attempted murder -- but returned guilty verdicts on the five remaining counts.

Because there are multiple felonies involved, Makuola Collins may face the state's stiffest punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Wearing a pinstripe dress shirt, Collins, 27, prepared for the decision of 12 strangers that would affect the rest of his life.

"Murder in the second degree, we the jury in this case find the defendant guilty as charged," the court clerk read.

The parents of the victim broke down in tears, while Collins' family had no visible reaction.

"It's a life sentence," David Hayakawa, defense attorney, said. "It's either life with or life without parole, and that's 50-plus years. For a young man, that's a devastating thing to face."

Joel Botelho was gunned down on January 2nd, a day after celebrating his 27th birthday. A decade ago, he was an all-star quarterback for Castle High.

Prosecutors say Collins, a former teammate, fired multiple shots outside Botelho's parents' house in Kaneohe after a run-in with Botelho's younger brother, Leon, at a nearby bar.

"We're just so thankful to the public, for those that were brave enough to come forward and testify in this case," Nonohe Botelho, victim's mother, said through tears. "It's been a very emotional case for our community."

The defense suggested that Leon Botelho was the one who opened fire and wound up striking his own brother. The murder weapon was never recovered.

"A lot of the focus was on Leon and him being the villain in this case," Chris Botelho, victim's father, said. "He's done amazing through all of this. It's been a very, very difficult and emotional ride for him, as you can imagine."

"I know the jury worked very hard on this," Wayne Tashima, deputy prosecutor, said. "They had been out for 20 hours at least over a number of days. I just want to thank them for what they did."

But the panel's work isn't over. Jurors are set to return next week Thursday to decide whether Collins should face the enhanced sentence of life in prison without parole.

"What is your position on that?" this reporter asked.

"We want that," Nonohe Botelho replied.

"We don't believe there's any grounds for extended sentencing," Hayakawa said.

The attempted murder stemmed from Collins firing a shot at Leon Botelho, who was not hurt.

The defense says it's disappointed, but respects the jury's work on the case.

There were also two drug charges, but jurors did not have to consider those because Collins earlier pleaded not contest.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.