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In Brief | Big Island & State | 12-19-13

December 18, 2013 - 10:17pm

Big surf headed for west-facing shores

Twenty- to 25-foot waves are forecast for west-facing shores of the Big Island starting this evening, according to the National Weather Service. A high surf warning goes into effect at 6 p.m.

A strong low-pressure system in the northwest Pacific has generated a large west-northwest swell that will bring “much larger than normal” surf to west-facing shores along the Kona and Kohala coasts, according to forecasters.

Surf is expected to begin building this afternoon reaching warning levels shortly after sunset. While forecasters expect the waves to gradually diminish by 6 p.m. Saturday, surf may remain hazardous through Sunday.

Waves may sweep across portions of beaches. The service also warned of very strong breaking waves and strong longshore and rip currents. The breaking waves may impact harbors making navigating harbor channels dangerous.

Beachgoers, swimmers and surfers should heed all advice given by ocean safety officials and exercise extreme caution.

Police searching for missing Hilo teen

Hawaii Island police are searching for a 16-year-old Hilo girl who was reported missing.

Desiree Tolentino-Awai was last seen Sept. 20 in Hilo, according to the Hawaii County Police Department. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 120 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts should call the department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311. Tipsters who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 329-8181 in Kona or 961-8300 in Hilo and be eligible for a reward up to $1,000. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Snow forecast for Big Island summits

A winter storm warning is in effect for Big Island summits through Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu. More than 6 inches of snow is forecast to fall.

A cold low in the middle atmosphere moving over the island will support locally heavy snow showers and thunderstorms, according to forecasters. Snow showers and squalls could lead to rapid accumulations of snow at the summits above 12,000 feet. The heavier bursts of snow may be accompanied by gusty winds and cloud-t0-ground lightning.

The service forecast southeast winds of 10 to 20 mph. Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s and 30s.

The Mauna Kea Access Road was closed as of Wednesday afternoon because of ice.

The service cautioned that visibility may be near zero at times.

Flash flood watch issued for island

A flash flood watch remains in effect for Hawaii Island through 6 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

A cold low moving over the eastern portion of the state will support the threat of heavy rain and thunderstorms through Thursday night, forecasters said. While the bulk of the rainfall will occur over the windward slopes, heavy showers are expected over leeward areas Thursday afternoon.

A flash flood watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding. The service also noted that it does not have to be raining heavily in a particular area for flash flooding to occur. Heavy rain on nearby slopes may produce flooding in area streams, canyons and other low-lying areas.

Small craft advisory in effect

A small craft advisory is in effect for Hawaii Island’s leeward and southeast waters through 2 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

The service forecast east winds around 25 knots, or about 29 mph. Rough seas of 10 to 14 feet are also expected. The roughest seas are expected Thursday night.

Inexperienced mariners, especially those operating smaller vessels, should avoid navigating in such conditions.

Second man charged in connection with Waiakea burglaries

Hawaii Island police have charged a second man with numerous offenses related to burglaries in the Waiakea area of Hilo.

Keoni Mata, 30, of Hilo, was charged Tuesday evening with two counts burglary, eight counts theft, four counts fraudulent use of a credit card, three counts identity theft and two counts forgery, according to the Hawaii County Police Department.

Mata was arrested Monday on a $500 bench warrant for contempt of court and for suspicion of fraudulent use of a credit card, according to police. The card was reportedly taken during a Dec. 2 burglary in the Waiakea area.

Mata was taken to the Hilo police cellblock while South Hilo patrol officers continued the investigation. While in custody, Mata was also arrested on suspicion of burglary in connection with a Dec. 5 burglary in the Waiakea area and on suspicion of theft in connection with another Waiakea burglary reported on Dec. 12, according to police. His bail was set at $185,000.

On Dec. 11, 18-year-old Kyson Dameron of Hilo was also arrested and subsequently charged Dec. 13 with crimes related to these three burglaries, including the use of a stolen credit card, according to police.

Hilo shooting suspect declared unfit for trial

A 56-year-old homeless man accused of shooting a 32-year-old homeless man to death late last year has been found unfit for trial.

On Monday, Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura ruled there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Mark Anthony Whyne “lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense,” according to court records.

The judge ordered Whyne committed to the state Department of Health “for detention, care and treatment and for restoration of fitness.”

Psychologist Tom Cunningham testified that Whyne suffers from schizophrenia.

Whyne, a former special education teacher at Pahoa and McKinley high schools, is charged with second-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and carrying a loaded firearm. He’s accused of the fatal shooting of Faafetai Fiu on Dec. 29 on Bayfront Highway near Mooheau Park in Hilo. According to court documents filed by police, Fiu had been shot eight times, and ballistics tests matched a 9 mm handgun police found in a fanny pack on Whyne’s body when he was arrested Feb. 4 at Wailoa Small Boat Harbor.

Court documents said a child of Fiu’s woke up after hearing gunshots and may have witnessed the shooting.

Nakamura ordered Whyne to appear in court at 8 a.m. Jan. 28. If he is confined to Hawaii State Hospital on Oahu, Whyne will appear via videoconference.

Hawaii makes solar tax credit rules permanent

HONOLULU — The state is making permanent a rule limiting the ability of homeowners and businesses to claim multiple tax credits for solar systems.

The state Department of Taxation created the rule last year to provide clarity and uniformity to the tax credit program. They also wanted to reduce the tax revenue lost as the value of claimed credits soared.

The Hawaii Solar Energy Association took issue with some of the language in the new rules but says overall they are positive for the industry.

Association Executive Director Leslie Cole-Brooks told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser a bigger issue is a slowdown in getting new projects installed in neighborhoods where many homes already use solar power.

The new rules base the 35 percent solar income tax credit on total kilowatt output capacity.

Maui County sued for age discrimination in police hiring

HONOLULU — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Maui County for age discrimination, saying it didn’t hire a 45-year-old to be a police officer because of his age.

The agency filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Honolulu.

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone declined to comment. He said the county hasn’t been served with the lawsuit yet.

Lars Sandstrom applied to be a Maui police officer in 2009. He had a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience in the military and National Guard. He scored well on a written exam.

But the lawsuit alleges the county passed him over while hiring several less qualified candidates. Another police department later hired Sandstrom.

The lawsuit seeks back pay, benefits, damages and steps to prevent further discrimination by Maui police.

Trial set for suspect in Guam crash-stabbing case

HAGATNA, Guam — A Guam man accused of killing three tourists and hurting 11 others in the tourist area of Tumon is expected to go on trial April 7.

Judge Anita Sukola on Wednesday scheduled jury selection and trial for Chad De Soto, who is charged with three counts of aggravated murder and 11 counts of attempted aggravated murder.

De Soto is accused of driving his car onto the sidewalk of a busy tourist area, hitting pedestrians until the vehicle slammed into a wall. Prosecutors say he then got out and started stabbing bystanders inside the store.

De Soto has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness, disease or defect.

Sukola on Wednesday ordered that two sealed, court-ordered psychiatric evaluations be made available to De Soto’s attorney, Public Defender Eric Miller.

Hawaii same-sex marriage pioneer weds partner

HONOLULU — One of the Hawaii women who sparked the national same-sex marriage battle with a lawsuit more than 20 years ago is now legally married to another woman.

Genora Dancel has wed Kathryn Dennis, her partner of 15 years.

They were married Tuesday in a court ceremony that comes 23 years after Dancel, her partner at the time and two other gay couples were denied marriage licenses, leading to a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision saying their equal protection rights were being violated.

Hawaii is now among 16 states and Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal.

Dancel said the clerk who denied her license in 1990 was the same one who approved it this time.

She told Hawaii News Now being married outweighs the bad feelings from her struggle.

Show moving to TruTV

“The Tim Ferriss Experiment,” a show featuring productivity guru and serial entrepreneur Tim Ferriss conquering the impossible, is moving from the HLN network to TruTV and “currently in a transition period so they haven’t announced the new air time,” said spokeswoman Cynthia Sun. For the most up-to-date information on this show, visit, she added.

On Dec. 16, West Hawaii Today published an article about the show and how an episode will feature the Big Island.

It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to correct promptly any incorrect or misleading information when it is brought to the attention of the newspaper.

By local and wire sources