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Jury finds Makuola Collins guilty in Kaneohe murder case

By Rosemarie Bernardo and Gordon Y.K. Pang

Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 01:05 p.m. HST, Dec 28, 2011

After a week of deliberations, a Circuit Court jury found Makuola Collins guilty of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder in the fatal shooting of former Castle High School football teammate Joel Botelho outside of Botelho's parent's Kaneohe home in the early morning of January 2.

He was also found guilty of firearms violations.

Collins, 27, faces a maximum sentence of life without parole. The jury will return for a hearing on January 5 to decide if Collins should be eligible for parole.

The trial before Judge Karen Ahn lasted for nearly eight days. Opening arguments began on December 13.

In closing arguments on December 21, Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima showed the jury, and the gallery, a photo of Botelho's bloodied knees in an attempt to prove the victim had been forced to kneel before he was shot, and then a photo showing where a bullet entered above the victim's chest.

Tashima painted Botelho, 27, as an innocent peacemaker who "paid" for attempting to step between a violent and simmering dispute between his younger brother, Leon "Bubba" Botelho, 22, and Collins.

David Hayakawa, Collins' attorney, argued that there are many gaps in the information that leave a reasonable doubt for the jury. The weapon that killed Joel Botelho, believed to be a handgun, was never recovered, and Hayakawa suggested repeatedly that it was Leon Botelho who shot his brother and then hid the evidence. Leon Botelho has been the only person to identify Collins as the man who shot his brother, Hayakawa said.

Hayakawa said there were also inconsistencies in statements made by Leon Botelho and other prosecution witnesses.

Tashima said Collins had gathered a group of relatives and friends to go the Botelhos' home during the early morning hours of Jan. 2 after Bubba Botelho had "false-cracked" him at the Club Komo Mai bar in Kaneohe a few hours earlier.

Collins was met by Joel Botelho, who tried to calm him down, Tashima said. When Leon Botelho fired a warning shot into the ground, Collins forced Joel Botelho to kneel and then shot him, Tashima said. Collins then shot at Leon Botelho, missing, before fleeing the scene.

Collins took the stand in his trial and denied shooting at the Botelhos. He testified that he had gone to the Botelhos' home to urge his friend Joel to control his younger brother and said as he and several others were walking on a driveway to the Botelho home in the early morning darkness, two shots were fired toward him.

Joel Botelho was living on Hawaii island but was in Kaneohe on the night of his death to celebrate his 27th birthday with his family.

Collins and Joel Botelho both played on the Castle High School football team on which Botelho was a star quarterback.

During the trial and the reading of the verdict, family and friends of Collins and Botelho sat across the aisle from each other in the courtroom.

Nonohe Botelho, Joel's mother, cried when the verdict was read.

"We just wanted our sons Joel and Leon to be vindicated as they were protecting us that night," Nonohe Botelho said after the verdict.

She said it's been an emotional case for her and her family, the community and her son's friends and teammates. "We're just very relieved and just very thankful to the jury that they made the right decision in this case," she said. 

Sentencing is scheduled for March 5.

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livinginhawaii wrote:
This criminal has no Aloha. Please send him to Arizona where he can dine on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches three times a day for the next several years while contemplating the ramifications of taking a life. He does not deserve the good food served at Halawa.
on December 28,2011 | 10:12AM
jess wrote:
You might be signing a different tune if he were a member of your family. This whole situation is very tragic, and I agree that he should serve his time, but to say that he doesn't "deserve the good food served at Halawa" is a low blow to a family who has already suffered a lot over the past year, to know that my son or brother took another man's life would just break my heart, I'm sure it's deeply affected the Collins' family. RIP Joel, and all the other Castle boys who passed away this past year, it was a tough year for a lot of people. Hopefully 2012 will be full of joy and peace.
on December 28,2011 | 10:49AM
kainalu wrote:
Well put, jess. This entire story is a tragedy for both the families and the greater community, it's Highschool where everybody knows everybody.
on December 28,2011 | 11:04AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
I wouldn't sing a different tune if a member of my family shot and killed an innocent "peacemaker" who was on his knees pleading for his life. Collins is pure evil.
on December 28,2011 | 11:39AM
palolo2001 wrote:
I pray drugs were not involved in this sad shooting between former teammates.
on December 28,2011 | 11:28AM
Poipounder808 wrote:
Finally a jury gets it right.
on December 28,2011 | 11:28AM
jusmetwocents wrote:
But he's such a good boy... He would never hurt anyone.
on December 28,2011 | 01:04PM
ahonui90 wrote:
No gun, unreliable witnessess. There was a crime here and unfortunately someone died. My heart goes out to the Botelho family but how do you find someone guilty of killing someone with no murder weapon recovered and the brother as the only witness. He lied before and I'm sure he would have no problem lying now. Innocent until proven Guilty is our motto. I just don't see it here.
on December 28,2011 | 01:16PM
mrluke wrote:
Just another follower in the popular trend who don't believe anyone is ever guilty.
on December 28,2011 | 01:56PM
Poipounder808 wrote:
Were you there at the trial? Did you hear all the evidence? If you are basing your comments on just what you read in the paper then you are ill-informed. A jury of his peers found him guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. I am sure he will appeal.
on December 28,2011 | 02:13PM
mrluke wrote:
No, I was not there. But...the jury was!!!
on December 28,2011 | 05:33PM
patk wrote:
I thought about that too, but if it was a fact that collins' friends and relatives were there that night, then that could be the damning evidence depending on how many of them testified. They would all have been witnesses, if Leon was lying then they would have been able to easily discredit his story. But if Leon was telling the truth, then I don't think that many of them would have been willing to take the stand to lie in court just to protect him, and put their own butts on the line.
on December 28,2011 | 02:13PM
HD36 wrote:
Hayakawa blew it!!!
on December 28,2011 | 03:19PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Just curious - is this the same David Hayakawa that promotes the slopes of diamond head drinking parties?
on December 28,2011 | 03:42PM
Kuihao wrote:
on December 28,2011 | 04:51PM
ellinaskyrt wrote:
So is it true that the Collins boy is the son of a cop or a former cop?
on December 28,2011 | 01:59PM
mrluke wrote:
No. And do you mean "police officer"? And, what difference would it make??
on December 28,2011 | 05:35PM
hvagd1 wrote:
Another 27 year old male made the news today. Staff Sgt. Joseph Altman who was also killed by gunfire while defending his country in Afghanistan. Makes me sick reading about a local Kaneohe beef that ended in tragedy.
on December 28,2011 | 03:15PM
cojef wrote:
No matter whose side of the family you are on, it's a sad day for both families. Both so young with many worlds to conquer. For Collins I hope he can still redeem himself. For the departed, Rest in Peace.
on December 28,2011 | 03:51PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
It sounds like his brother Leon was at least partially responsible for what happened here. What a shame an innocent man had to die for his brothers mistakes. Someone comes to your house looking for a fight after you punch him and points a gun at your brother and you fire a warning shot into the ground? Bad decision to say the least.
on December 28,2011 | 07:02PM
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