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Big Isle man deemed competent to face murder charge

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HILO » A Nanawale Estates man suspected of killing a Big Island neighbor has been deemed competent by mental health professionals to stand trial on a murder charge.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara on Thursday ordered Seon Keoni Aki, 44, to stand trial Jan. 27 on charges of second-degree murder, terroristic threatening and several firearms counts.

Three mental health professionals determined that Aki understands the charges and can assist in his defense. They include state Department of Health psychologist Thomas Cunningham and psychiatrists Henry Yang and Alex Bisset, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

Aki has pleaded not guilty to fatally shooting his next-door neighbor, Mateo D. Balinbin Jr., 40, at Balinbin’s home. Balinbin died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to police.

Another neighbor, Don Sambrana, told police he was in the room when the fatal shot was fired but did not see the shooting.

Police said Aki brandished a handgun and chased Sambrana out of Balinbin’s house, which led to the terroristic threatening charge.

Aki is a registered sex offender. As a convicted felon, he was not allowed to possess a gun.

The hearing Thursday lacked outbursts that marked previous hearings in the case.

Aki is jailed at Hawaii Community Correctional Center with bail set at $360,000.

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