For the last two years, Maui has been gripped by the violent murder of Carly “Charli” Scott and its aftermath–first as a community wide search for her and then as a murder investigation and criminal trial of her ex-boyfriend Steven Capobianco. Twenty-five years ago, Maui was gripped by another violent murder where the criminal trials stretched for nearly two years.
On the morning of Nov. 22, 1991, Detective Antonio Funes, a 20-year veteran of the Maui Police Department and head of its major crimes division, was assigned to go down to Kahului Harbor where a human body had been found that morning. Near the old Hale Nanea clubhouse on the Hana end of Kahului Harbor, police were looking for evidence. Funes was briefed by Sergeant Cal Shinyama regarding what the responding officers had discovered. Funes went up to the body and confirmed that it was lifeless.
After some polaroids and 35mm pictures were taken, the body was put onto a gurney where Funes cleaned the face of sand and took additional photographs. The body was then taken to Maui Memorial Hospital for an official pronouncement of death.
Funes and his detective canvassed the area looking for clues to identify the individual. A ship, the Independence, was in port and detectives started there. While talking to the ship’s passengers and crew, a technician at Maui Memorial informed officers that the man was 40-year old Jerald “Jerry” Canada, who was a part-time bartender of Lopaka’s Bar and Grill (where Restaurant Matsu is now located on Alamaha Street).
Funes and other detectives then went to Lopaka’s to talk to its owner, Lucy Anderson, its manager Cindy Ehrig, and Jerry’s friend Wayne Dunn. After showing them some polaroids, they immediately identified him.
Dr. Kanthi Gunitilake, a forensic pathologist, performed the autopsy. The cause of death was drowning and a contributing cause was multiple injuries to the body. There was water and a “lot of sand” in his air passages as well as in his stomach. The doctor also observed bleeding in the middle portion of the ear. Dr. Gunitilake determined that the cuts and bruises to the head and upper body occurred before death while most of the abrasions in the lower body occurred after death. Jerry had a blood alcohol level of .15 percent.
The police subsequently located Jerry’s black Chevy Luv pickup just over half a mile in the Naska area (near what we now call Kanaha Beach Park), from where he had been found by the Hale Nanea clubhouse. Funes took additional Polaroids and photographs of the truck. Funes noted that the back of the pick-up was set up so that someone could sleep there. It had a mattress and a canvas cover. Jerry had been homeless for a few months before his death. He would live in his truck at the beach sometimes and sometimes would also stay with friends at their houses.
After speaking with witnesses, police were able to piece together Jerry’s last day of life, Nov. 21. He had worked the first shift at Lopaka’s, which ended at 5pm. He was part of the cast of the Maui Community Theatre’s Man for All Seasons and went to perform at the 7:30pm show at the Iao Theater. The crowd that night was small and Jerry headed over to Lopaka’s after the show ended at 10:30pm. Jerry told co-worker Sonya Wallace that he was disappointed by the small audience and he wanted to relax with a couple of beers.
He was sitting near the back. Next to his table, 25-year-old Reginald “Reggie” Medeiros sat with his companion, 18-year-old Roy “Junior” Kaiama. Lucy carded Junior, who was unable to produce identification, so she only served Reggie. After some time, Sonya saw the three men together at the same table. They continued to socialize and drink for about half an hour until Lopaka’s closed at 1am.
Sonya had plans with a date to go to the Hang Loose Lounge down the street. Reggie, Junior and Jerry planned to follow. Jerry told Lucy that he was hoping to get lucky. Lucy told Jerry not to go. Sonya and her date arrived at the Hang Loose Lounge and Jerry, Reggie and Junior arrived about 15 minutes later. They shared a booth and socialized. Reggie and Jerry were very social while Junior was very quiet. When the Lounge closed, several beers that Reggie had ordered had not been consumed. He tried to sneak them out of the Lounge but the bartender stopped him. Jerry and Reggie decided to continue hanging out at Naska beach with Junior while Sonya left with her date.
After piecing together Jerry’s last day, Funes went to Junior’s house to talk to him. They agreed that Junior would come down to the police station to make a statement. His mother drove him and they arrived after midnight, roughly a day after Jerry died. Funes read Junior his Miranda rights and Junior waived his rights.
In his first statement, Junior confirmed that he had gone to Lopaka’s with Reggie and had drinks, then went to the Hang Loose Lounge with Reggie and Jerry and had more drinks. Junior said that when Hang Loose closed, they all went home and didn’t know where Jerry went next.
After further questioning by Funes, Junior ended up giving a very different version. In that version, after Hang Loose Lounge closed, the three men went to Naska to party. Reggie and Junior went in one truck and Jerry in another. They socialized for a while on the tailgate of Jerry’s truck. Junior went to urinate.
When he returned Jerry looked down and said, “I can suck ‘um right here” and then turned to Reggie and said “I can suck yours too.” Junior said he started “trippin’ out” because Jerry was acting like a good friend but “he like suck cock.” In this second version, Junior stated that Reggie started beating up Jerry by punching and kicking him and chasing him around the vehicles. Junior admitted that he had punched Jerry twice in the head and that he fled by swimming out into the ocean. In the second version, the two men began throwing rocks at Jerry as he swam parallel to the shore towards Kahului Harbor. They followed along the beach. Reggie eventually went back to the car while Junior followed Jerry to where he came back to shore with the intent of helping him out of the water. Jerry broke loose and went back out into the water. Junior said “heck with it” and rejoined Reggie and left.
After giving his statement, Junior met with his attorney (now Judge) Keith Tanaka. He then went to the police and gave a third version of events. In this version, Junior emphasized that Reggie threw big rocks and he threw little rocks and it was Reggie who pursued Jerry while Junior stopped and returned to Reggie’s truck and waited for him. When Reggie returned, he admitted to Junior that he had drown Jerry. Junior said that he didn’t tell the truth at first because he was afraid of Reggie, who had threatened him. He also asked the police not to tell Reggie that he had told on him.
The police subsequently recovered from Reggie items stolen from Jerry’s truck : a cassette/radio truck stereo with speakers, cassette tapes, a radar detector along with the keys and registration to Jerry’s truck.
Junior was immediately indicted for murdering Jerry. His bail was set at $50,000. At the probable cause hearing, District Court Judge Yoshio Shigezawa reduced Junior’s bail to $10,000. When Junior was bound over to the Circuit Court, Circuit Court Judge Boyd Mossman reinstituted bail at $50,000. Reggie was eventually charged and bail set at $60,000. Determined not to be shown sleeping on the job, the Liquor Control Adjudication Board fined Lopaka’s and the Hang Loose Lounge for serving beer to Junior.
At trial before Judge John McConnell, the prosecution played videotape of the murder scene where jurors saw white-gloved paramedics digging Jerry’s head out of the sand while his torso bobbed with the shoreline waves. Friends of Jerry testified that he was a strong swimmer and free diver and frequented the Kanaha and Naska area to go diving.
The defense called no witnesses. Instead, the defense sought to explain the inconsistencies in Junior’s different accounts because of his fear of Medeiros. The defense raised the issue of whether Jerry was “obvious” in his sexuality with the aim of saying he was not, that it was reasonable for Junior to then come under extreme emotional distress by the sexual proposition. Junior’s defense also pointed to inconclusive and lack of any corroborating physical evidence linking Junior to the scene of the crime.
The prosecution impeached Junior’s final account of events by noting that he himself had said, “First time I see ‘em, first time I see someone make.”
After two days of deliberation, the jury was unable to decide whether Junior was guilty of murder. They said they did not believe a unanimous decision could be had with more deliberation, and a mistrial was declared.
In the second trial, while the prosecution was denied the ability to call Reggie as a witness, it was allowed to bring Reggie into court as an exhibit to show that Reggie is smaller than Junior. The defense did not call any witnesses. It sought to introduce evidence during the cross-examination of Funes about a rumor that Reggie was known to deal drugs to the gay community. That request was denied.
The second jury found Junior guilty of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. He was also fined $1,613.20.
Reggie then went on trial before Judge Richard Komo. In Reggie’s third account to police, he admitted they went with Jerry to the beach to smoke marijuana. At some point, Junior made a sexually suggestive joke to Jerry who responded by accepting the offer. Junior became angry and began punching Jerry. Jerry jumped into the water saying “You’re crazy man, leave me alone” and Junior followed him into the water saying “I’m going to get you.” Medeiros went back to Jerry’s truck to steal things. When Junior returned, he told Reggie that he hid at the Hale Nanea clubhouse until Jerry got out of the water. He accosted Jerry and had killed him by holding his head underwater along the shore. Reggie characterized Junior’s description as bragging.
The prosecution argued that even if Junior was the one that killed Jerry, Reggie had a duty to stop Junior or report to the authorities what had happened. By failing to do that and then initially telling police the same false story as Junior, he was an accomplice to murder. Prosecutor Davelynn Tengan said, “Even if you believe everything this man ever said, you must find him guilty.” Reggie’s attorney, David Sereno, told the jury that Jerry’s death was a tragedy, but not to “compound the tragedy” by convicting Reggie of murder.
The jury found Reggie not guilty of murder and but did find him guilty of third degree misdemeanor assault and fourth degree petty misdemeanor theft. He was sentenced to the maximum time for the misdemeanor assault–one year–given credit for time served and fined $2,000.
The murder of Jerry Canada and the trials of the Junior Kaiama and Reggie Medeiros occurred at a specific transition period in Maui’s history during rapid shift in Maui’s economic trajectory and its impact on the people of Maui. Between 1970 and 1990, the slow decline of Maui’s population reversed and more than doubled, primarily with people from off-island and generally out-of-state. The rapid and chaotic transition from an agricultural economy populated by non-haole labor and dominated by a small haole elite was swiftly replaced with a tourism and construction economy populated by working-class labor that was increasingly from out of state.
The social life of the plantation world gave way to a social life typical of a tourist destination. Violent crime rose dramatically as a result. Violence against women and violence against outsiders rose in particular. Gays were increasingly seen as “outsiders” and Hawaiian and local Asian gays increasingly made themselves less visible as a result.
“There had been things before,” said openly gay retired Maui police officer Vernon Gosney. “But Jerry’s murder shook everyone to the core.”
Cover design: Darris Hurst