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Homeless man convicted of beating victim to death

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Michael Abella faces a possible 20-year prison term when he is sentenced in December.
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Airport crasher Michael Abella ‘not in his right mind’

A state jury found Michael Abella guilty of manslaughter Tuesday for the fatal beating of a fellow homeless man in downtown Honolulu in July 2014.

Abella, 36, faces a possible 20-year prison term at sentencing in December. Because Abella is not a U.S. citizen, the federal government may also deport him.

The victim, 57-year-old Shelton Higa, died July 29, 2014, from injuries he suffered 12 days earlier. The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office says Higa died from complications of blunt force head injuries.

Other people who shared sleeping space with Higa on the Smith Street sidewalk near the Pauahi Street intersection testified that they saw Abella beat Higa in two unprovoked attacks about an hour apart. They called for an ambulance after both beatings.

After the first beating, the city Emergency Medical Services says, an ambulance crew left the scene because the patient refused to be taken to a hospital. After the second beating an ambulance took Higa to the Queen’s Medical Center, where he lapsed into a coma and died two days after doctors removed him from life support.

Higa’s daughter, Stephanie, works at Queen’s, and Higa also was the father of convicted child killer Matthew Higa, who threw a toddler off the Miller Street pedestrian bridge into traffic on the H-1 freeway in 2008.

Abella testified that he was not the person who beat Higa in the first attack, in which police said a 40-ounce beer bottle was used to hit Higa in the head from behind. Abella said he did strike Higa three times in the second attack after Higa provoked him and hit him twice.

One witness who said he pulled Abella off Higa in the second attack testified that Higa was not able to defend himself because “Shelton wasn’t in the best of health. He was always walking around slow.”

The state says Higa was suffering from kidney disease and was partially blind in one eye.

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