A Big Island vacation for three tourists from the U.S. East Coast turned deadly after one of them became “psychotically” drunk, his friend testified Wednesday.
Alexander Germany-Wald of Montclair, New Jersey, testified at a preliminary hearing for his college buddy, Benjamin Fleming of Pittsburgh, who is charged with murder in the strangulation of their friend, Abhishek Gupta, also of Pittsburgh.
The three men, friends since college at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, were staying at a Big Island vacation rental last month when Gupta was asked to leave a bar because he was belligerently drunk, Germany-Wald said.
Germany-Wald said he took Gupta back to their Kailua-Kona Airbnb, while Fleming stayed behind.
While at the condo, Germany-Wald said, he locked himself in a bedroom because Gupta was “berating” him.
After Fleming returned, Germany-Wald and Gupta got into a fistfight.
“I knew that Mr. Gupta was psychotically drunk and that he was not in control of what he was doing,” Germany-Wald said. “I also knew that I was in grave danger when Mr. Gupta was on top of me.”
Fleming intervened and restrained Gupta, Germany-Wald said, adding that he didn’t see what kind of hold he used to restrain Gupta.
Germany-Wald said while he and Fleming were having a beer in the kitchen, they could hear Gupta snoring. They later noticed Gupta wasn’t breathing and Fleming called 911, Germany-Wald said.
Police arrived after paramedics said there wasn’t anything more they could do for Gupta, Germany-Wald said.
Fleming and Germany-Wald were arrested. Germany-Wald was later released without being charged.
Before the hearing got underway, Fleming’s defense attorney, Christopher Eggert, asked that his client be allowed to change out of his jail clothes. Eggert said he was concerned about prejudice against Fleming because the hearing was broadcast on Zoom. The judge allowed him to change shirts.
“I think that’s a fair request,” Judge Cynthia Tai said.
The hearing was scheduled to resume today.