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Man pleads not guilty in Big Island toddler death

  • HAWAII POLICE DEPARTMENTXavier J. Cortez Jr. was arrested by Hawaii island police today in the death of a 19-month-old toddler in 2011.
    Xavier J. Cortez Jr. was arrested by Hawaii island police today in the death of a 19-month-old toddler in 2011.

HILO >> A former professional boxer pleaded not guilty Tuesday in the 2011 beating death of a toddler.

Trial for Xavier “Pee Wee” Cortez Jr. has been scheduled for June 2. He is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 18-month-old Pomaikai Ferreira.

Pomaikai was taken to Hilo Medical Center on Jan. 2, 2011, with breathing difficulties. She was transferred to Honolulu’s Queen’s Medical Center, where she died. An autopsy showed injuries due to repetitive abusive head trauma, authorities said.

At the time, Cortez was living with the girl’s mother. He initially was arrested but released pending further investigation.

Police said a tip led to his re-arrest Tuesday at his Mountain View home. He was ordered held on $1 million bail, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports

“This case is a little bit different than many others,” Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Lee said. “It took some time to get some of the evidence, put everything together.”

Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng had asked the judge to consider setting bail after his client was arrested on a no-bail warrant. Ng said today the case has been transferred to Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa. Ebesugawa declined to comment.  

The girl’s mother, 20-year-old Sommer Ferreira, died in September 2011. County Prosecutor Mitch Roth described her death as suspicious but declined to elaborate. He said her death is under investigation.

Because the victim is a child, Cortez could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if he’s convicted.

Lee said Cortez has a prior conviction in Nevada for child neglect involving “very young” children. According to court records, Cortez has at least six misdemeanor Hawaii convictions, including domestic abuse in 2010. 

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