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Grand jury indicts suspect in killing of artist

A 55-year-old homeless Puna man accused of the Dec. 4 beating death of an acclaimed artist has been indicted by a Hilo grand jury.

Michael Cecil Lee already is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly slaying 75-year-old Shingo Honda a few hundred yards from Honda’s Glenwood home and studio.

Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach on Dec. 11 ordered an examination of Lee to ascertain his fitness for trial and whether he had sufficient mental capacity to understand the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the alleged offense.

Lee engaged in a couple of loud, staccato outbursts during his initial court appearance Dec. 9, including one when a deputy prosecutor mispronounced Lee’s middle name.

The reports by the panel of three mental health professionals are due on Lee’s next district court date, Jan. 28, but the indictment moves Lee’s case to Hilo Circuit Court.

According to court documents filed by police, Lee, who was apprehended Dec. 7 by special-duty police officers at the annual Pahoa Christmas parade, admitted to the offense and told officers he did it because he believed Honda was a “war criminal.”

Honda, who also was a Zen priest, reportedly had attempted to befriend Lee.

Second-degree murder usually carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole upon conviction. The indictment, however, alleges Lee is subject to extended terms of imprisonment, which, if imposed, could mean a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The document states an extended term of imprisonment “is necessary for the protection of the public” and because Lee “is an offender against the elderly … .”

Lee’s case is assigned to Hilo Circuit Court Division 1, which is currently without a full-time appointed judge because of the Dec. 1 retirement of Judge Greg Nakamura. District and Family Court judges are presiding over District 1’s calendar until a new circuit judge is appointed by Gov. David Ige and approved by the state Senate.

Lee remains in custody in Oahu Community Correctional Center in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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