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Vicente Hilario murder trial wraps up on Kaua‘i

LIHU‘E — The question of Vicente Hilario’s guilt or innocence now rests in the hands of the jury.

Hilario is accused of the execution-style killing of Aureo Moore at Anahola Beach Park on the morning of Dec. 17, 2010, and faces charges of murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, retaliating against a witness, intimidating a witness, and bribery of a witness.

He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at a 2013 trial, but the conviction was remanded for a new trial on appeal several years later.

The most recent trial — in which Hilario opted to represent himself — largely rehashed old information from a 2013 trial, with prosecutors often playing videotapes of the first trial in lieu of in-person witnesses.

Before a gallery filled with representatives of the prosecutors’ office and members of Moore’s family, both sides made their final arguments on Friday morning.

The prosecution’s case

Prosecutor Matthew Arakawa spoke first, arguing Hilario was the only person with “the motive, means, and opportunity” to kill Moore.

“Six — that was the number of gunshots fired on December 17, 2010,” he began. “The number of gunshots it took to take Aureo Moore’s life and prevent him from testifying.”

Arakawa said Hilario killed Moore as revenge for making him spend time in jail, and to prevent Moore from testifying against him or his friend Kyle Akau.

Moore was set to testify against Akau in a drug robbery that occurred the previous summer. Hilario, who was also a suspect in the robbery, had been imprisoned for several days as a result of the investigation.

In the prosecution’s version of events, Hilario arranged for Angienora Crawford to drop Moore off at Anahola Beach Park on the morning of Dec. 17, 2010. He also dropped off two friends, David Manaku and Kyler Hansen-Loo near Moore, who waited in the bushes as Hilario drove to meet Crawford at a park down the road.

In this timeline, Hilario then gave Crawford pills in exchange for setting up the meeting with Moore, left the park, and drove in Moore’s direction, parking at his grandma’s house nearby.

He then traveled on foot through the trails by Anahola Beach Park to where Moore was waiting, pulled on a facemask, and shot Moore six times, including several times as he tried to run away. Hilario, Manaku, and Hansen-Loo then all fled the scene.

“The shooting was personal,” Arakawa said. “Aureo was facedown when he was shot twice in the head.”

Key to proving this version of events is eyewitness David Manaku, who identified Hilario as the shooter at trial. Hilario previously testified that Manaku had pulled the trigger.

Arakawa insisted that eyewitness testimony proved Hilario was the shooter.

One eyewitness, Cheryl Corneal, identified the shooter as a person with long hair in a ponytail, who was wearing a hoodie. She also saw a larger, shirtless man running with the shooter.

At the time, Manaku was the larger man, weighing about 300 pounds, with shorter hair, while Hilario had a smaller, more athletic build and wore his hair in a ponytail. This description of Manaku as larger and shirtless was backed up by several other witnesses, who saw the men running after the shooting.

Arakawa also emphasized the fact that Hilario had gunshot residue on his hand, while Manaku did not.

Hilario’s defense

In his closing statement, Hilario expressed contempt for the prosecutors’ conduct during the investigation.

“I’m not going to twist the truth or the facts, like the prosecution does,” he told the jury.

He tried to set himself and the jury apart from the rest of the court system, emphasizing he didn’t have a legal background, and frequently referring to the jury as “we.”

He pointed to instances where investigators gave Manaku information about other witnesses’ testimony, after which he altered his story to better match other witnesses. A detective testified to this at trial, while Manaku admitted to frequently lying to police and changing his story after the shooting.

“No one feels disturbed by that?” he asked.

Hilario further argued he could not have been present at the scene of the killing, based on phone records.

Phone logs showed that Crawford called Hilario at 10:52 a.m. — four minutes before a witness called 911 to report the shooting at 10:56 a.m.

Hilario said this 10:52 a.m. call occurred before he met with Crawford, which would not have given him enough time to reach the site of the shooting.

In their rebuttal, Arakawa argued Crawford’s 10:52 a.m. call occurred after their meeting, which concluded several minutes before, leaving Hilario with enough time to reach Moore.

He added that, even if Manaku had been the shooter, Hilario would still be guilty as an accomplice.

Hilario objected to this line of argument, which he said constituted the prosecution trying to change its theory of the case, but was overruled by Judge Randal Valenciano.

Jurors were yet to return with a verdict by press time at 3:30 p.m. Friday.


Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or
Source: The Garden Island

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