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Former athlete dies in Kaneohe shooting

Police arrest a man in the slaying of Joel Botelho, who was gunned down in front of his parents' house

By Dan Nakaso

LAST UPDATED: 11:13 a.m. HST, Jan 3, 2011

Joel Botelho's former coaches, teammates, friends and family gathered yesterday near the spot where the one-time Castle High School football and basketball star had been shot and killed just hours earlier.

Botelho turned 27 on New Year's Day, said his longtime friend and former teammate, Jared Prestidge.

Botelho's former coaches said he had been out at a bar with his younger brother early yesterday morning when they got into an argument with a man they grew up with in Kaneohe.

The fight escalated and ended with Botelho being shot and killed in front of his parents' home on Waikalua Road in Kaneohe, said Nelson Maeda, Castle High School's head football coach.

Homicide detectives arrested a man for investigation of murder and attempted murder at 2:20 p.m. yesterday, Honolulu police Capt. Kent Harada said.

Police did not identify Botelho as the victim of yesterday's shooting. The victim was described only as a man in his mid-20s who died after being shot at 3:48 a.m. yesterday in front of a home on Waikalua Road.

Homicide investigators opened an attempted-murder case on behalf of a man in his early 20s who was not injured, Harada said.

Botelho's coaches and friends who gathered at the Botelho family home identified the other intended victim as Joel's younger brother, known as "Bubba," who declined to speak to the Star-Advertiser.

Botelho -- who was known as both Joel and Joe -- was the charismatic and fun-loving, left-handed quarterback whose ability to scramble and pass changed the fortunes and strategies of the Castle Knights football program, said Afton Smith, who coached Castle's quarterbacks.

Until Botelho joined the program, the Knights used the rather staid "option" offense that focused on a series of handoffs, often for short-yardage gains.

With Botelho's ability to scramble and throw, Smith said, the Knights suddenly had a more exciting weapon: the spread offense.

"He saved us in so many games," Smith said.

Botelho was barely 5 feet 9 inches tall and 145 pounds during his high school playing days, Smith said, "but Joe was the small guy that knocked off Goliath."

Castle's undersized offensive line meant Botelho had to use his quick feet and quick thinking and sometimes devastating arm, Smith said.

They would study game films together at Smith's house. And on the field, Botelho could anticipate what calls Smith would have made in the huddle.

"He had high football IQ," Smith said. "He was also a rascal at heart, but we loved him."

Prestidge, Botelho's former teammate, went to Kapunahala Elementary School with Botelho, and they attended Saint Louis School before each transferred to Castle.

Whether it was Little League baseball, basketball or football, Botelho was always the competitive natural leader, Prestidge said.

"He was the leader on and off the field," Prestidge said.

Botelho walked with a swagger that emanated confidence among teammates, coach Maeda said.

"He was maybe 5-9 soaking wet but was a great athlete," Maeda said. "He was fast and could run the 40 (-yard dash) in 4.5 (seconds). He was a happy-go-lucky guy who brought a smile to everyone's face."

In his senior year at Castle, Botelho passed for 16 touchdowns and ran for seven more.

In 2001, Botelho was named the OIA East Player of the Year in football. In basketball he was named to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's third-team All-State Team in 2002. And the Honolulu Quarterbacks Club named Botelho the Male Prep Athlete for 2002 for multiple sports.

Maeda called Joel Botelho's death "devastating news."

After graduating from Castle in 2002, Botelho went to the University of Montana Western, where he was a wide receiver and kick returner, but came back home to attend Windward Community College in 2003.

Botelho told The Honolulu Advertiser at the time that he hoped to walk on at the University of Hawaii as a wide receiver.

He later worked in construction in Kailua-Kona and was the father of three children from separate relationships, said Mark Lum, who was an assistant football coach at Castle and remains close with the Botelho family.

Although he lived on the Big Island, Botelho often came back to Kaneohe and was visiting his family there over the holidays, Lum said.

"His family came first," Lum said. "I don't think we'll ever have another Joel Botelho."

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