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Trial set in Aloha Estates murder

A 60-year-old Mountain View man has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder for the December 2020 shooting death of a neighbor.

Donald John Needham entered the plea to the slaying of 34-year-old Andrew Cawley on Monday. Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota scheduled trial to begin May 9.

Hilo’s other circuit judge, Henry Nakamoto, recused himself from hearing Needham’s case. His certificate of disqualification simply quoted a Revised Code of Judicial Conduct rule stating “a judge should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judges’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” with no further explanation as to why he disqualified himself.

Deputy Prosecutor Haaheo Kahoohalahala told the judge she expects the trial to take two weeks once a jury is selected.

Needham was indicted Dec. 16 by a Hilo grand jury for the murder of Cawley, who lived on an adjacent Aloha Estates subdivision property.

Needham was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Hilo District Court on Tuesday, and his attorney, Brian De Lima, told Kubota he was preparing for the hearing when he learned his client had been indicted.

The indictment moves the case to Circuit Court, and precludes the need for a preliminary hearing.

Court documents filed by police indicate Needham’s estranged wife, Patricia Needham, told prosecutors and police in late October Needham had confessed to her that he had shot Cawley once in the chest on Dec. 22, 2020.

Needham then allegedly dragged Cawley’s body by the pants cuffs from the Mauna Loa Drive roadway and buried it in a shallow grave.

Police issued a news release on Dec. 30, 2020, stating Cawley had been missing for a week. His decomposing body was discovered buried in Aloha Estates on Jan. 5.

A conviction on a second-degree murder charge carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. County Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen said in a statement his office has “provided notice that Needham may be subject to a mandatory minimum prison term based on the possession, use or threatened use of a firearm in this incident.”

Needham remains in custody in Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $1 million bail.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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