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Murder charge dropped against Big Isle man

  • HAWAII COUNTY POLICE

    Xavier “Pee Wee” Cortez Jr.

HILO » The state has dropped one of two murder charges against a Big Island man accused of beating a baby to death and strangling the child’s mother almost nine months later.

A judge dismissed the charge against Xavier Cortez Jr. in the September 2011 death of his girlfriend, Sommer Ferreira, on Wednesday, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports.

County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the case for now because of problems they had gathering witnesses for the case.

Cortez’s trial for his girlfriend’s death had been set to resume Monday after appeals had halted jury selection at least twice. The murder charge was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can choose to refile charges at a later date.

Cortez is still charged with the January 2011 death of Ferreira’s 18-month-old daughter, who died at a hospital a week after being admitted for breathing problems. Trial for that case is scheduled for May 3.

Stanton Oshiro, Cortez’s attorney, had argued for prosecutors not to be able to refile charges in Ferreira’s death, saying it would have an impact on his client’s upcoming trial.

“Now he has to think about whether or not he can take the stand and testify in his own defense,” Oshiro said.

Oshiro blamed the delays in bringing the case to trial on the state. He said he would have filed a motion to dismiss the case on the basis of a right to a speedy trial, but that Cortez wanted “to have his day in court and to prove his innocence.”

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