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Murder suspect's bail increased to $2M at Big Island hearing

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:34 p.m. HST, May 31, 2011

WAIMEA, Hawaii >> The preliminary hearing for a Washington state man charged with murdering his girlfriend at a Big Island resort was postponed Tuesday because he said he can’t afford a lawyer.

Philip Howard Zimmerman, who is also known as Howard Philip Zimmerman, appeared handcuffed and shackled during a brief court appearance Tuesday where he told Judge Mel Fujino he doesn’t have the money to pay for a private attorney despite owning a $342,000 home in Washington state and earning $65,000 per year as a hardware engineer.

“I have no way to access funds. It would be nearly impossible to procure funds,” he said. “It’s like getting blood from a turnip at this point.”

Zimmerman, 46, of Bellevue, Wash., is charged with second-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree terroristic threatening and second-degree criminal property damage.

An autopsy conducted Friday on Susan Brockert, 44, also of Bellevue, showed she died from multiple blunt force and sharp force trauma to her head and neck, Hawaii County police said.

Zimmerman and Brockert were staying together at The Fairmont Orchid at Mauna Lani Resort when guests reported hearing screaming from their room on the night of May 23. Security and staff rushed to the room where a worker saw Brockert being struck in the head with an object, police said.

In court Tuesday, Fujino raised Zimmerman’s bail to $2 million. Bail had originally been set at $350,000 and prosecutors have asked that he be held without bail.

A June 7 hearing will determine if he qualifies for a public defender and whether bail should be revoked under the extreme depravity clause.

If the extreme depravity motion is granted for the second-degree murder charge, Zimmerman could face life in prison without possibility of parole.

Fujino urged Zimmerman to consult with a private attorney before next week’s hearing.

Prosecutors are expected to call at least seven witnesses at the preliminary hearing.

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