comscore Accused Wahiawa killer left girlfriend behind in fatal 2007 street racing crash | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Accused Wahiawa killer left girlfriend behind in fatal 2007 street racing crash

  • COURTESY HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT
                                Bernard DeCoito Jr.

    COURTESY HONOLULU POLICE DEPARTMENT

    Bernard DeCoito Jr.

Prosecutors charged a 37-year-old convicted felon in connection with the January shooting death of a 30-year-old woman near Whitmore Village in Wahiawa.

Bernard DeCoito Jr. was charged Thursday with manslaughter in the death of Malia Soma-Valmoja of Wahiawa. He was also charged with three firearm violations.

DeCoito’s bail is set at $1 million.

Though manslaughter is a class A felony that carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison, state law indicates a court may sentence a defendant who is a multiple offender with more than two felony convictions to an extended prison term.

DeCoito has a criminal record of three felony convictions. If convicted of manslaughter, DeCoito could get life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The deadly shooting occurred on an access road off of Kamehameha Highway between Kamanui Road and Whitmore Avenue on the morning of Jan. 11.

Police said Soma-Valmoja was in a remote area talking on her cellphone with a friend. The friend overheard Soma-Valmoja arguing with a male. Police said the friend then heard a crash and a gunshot.

The friend located Soma-Valmoja and called Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics treated her and took her in critical condition to a hospital where she later died.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office said Soma-Valmoja died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Police recovered from the scene a Jeep with a bullet hole through the driver’s side of the windshield and a Honda sedan with front-end damage.

Through a homicide investigation, police identified DeCoito as the suspect and arrested him Wednesday at the Oahu Community Correctional Center on suspicion of murder and firearm offenses. He was already in custody for a burglary warrant at the time of his arrest.

Criminal records show DeCoito was convicted in 2010 for leaving the scene of a 2007 street racing car crash in Mililani that killed his teenage girlfriend and severely injured another passenger.

Police said DeCoito was racing with another car driven by Justin Amorin on Feb. 23 when Amorin skidded and crashed into a tree on Lanikuhana Avenue. DeCoito witnessed the crash from behind. He slowed down to look at the wreckage then drove off.

Gillian Badua, 17, who was a passenger in Amorin’s vehicle, died in the crash and another passenger, 19-year-old Gavin Watson, was severely injured.

A state judge sentenced Amorin to two consecutive five-year prison terms for second-degree negligent homicide and second-degree assault.

DeCoito was sentenced to an 18-month prison term with credit for time served and five years of probation for accidents involving death or serious bodily injury and second-degree assault.

A year later, a judge resentenced DeCoito to 10 years in prison after he violated terms of his probation that included testing positive for marijuana and methamphetamine use and failure to seek substance abuse and mental health treatment.

He was released on parole in 2015 but returned to custody twice over the next two years for parole violations, according to administrator Tommy Johnson of the Hawaii Paroling Authority.

DeCoito was released from prison in October 2019.

His criminal record includes a felony conviction for unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle.

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