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Waimea man to stand trial in death of 3-year-old girl

Attorney Richard Sing and Ezekiel Wakinekona. (Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7)

Attorney Richard Sing and Ezekiel Wakinekona. Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A Waimea man charged with manslaughter in the death of a 3-year-old girl is being held on $500,000 bail.

Ezekiel Ramseyer Hao Wakinekona, 37, was ordered to stand trial in the death of Marley Makanani at a preliminary hearing Thursday in Waimea.

District Judge Melvin Fujino found probable cause at the hearing and set Wakinekona’s bail at $500,000. He originally had been held on $60,000 bail.

Kahealani Wakinekona testifies at her husband's preliminary hearing. (Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7)

During the hearing, Wakinekona’s wife, Kahealani, testified she was folding laundry the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 13 when Wakinekona carried the child into the living room of the Waimea home the couple shared with five children.

In addition to her own two children, the couple sometimes cared for an hanai son and three girls – ages 2, 3 and 6 – who were left in their custody in November. Kahealani said they previously had cared for the girls during weekends, but the mother had left them at the Waimea home Nov. 10 and “never picked them up.”

Kahealani, who works as a nurse at North Hawaii Community Hospital, said the child had a “loose head” and was making “awful gurgling sounds.”

She said she and her husband were driving the child to the hospital when the child stopped breathing and she directed her husband to stop at the fire station so emergency medical crews could take over.

Once the child arrived at the hospital, emergency room doctor Gary Goldberg said he began treating it as a near drowning.

Gary Goldberg, emergency room physician at North Hawaii Community Hospital. (Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7)

“She was cold to the touch,” he said.

Goldberg testified he noticed bruising on the child’s face and legs, a burn-like mark on her chest, a laceration to her left groin, and abrasions and scabs on her lower legs.

He said he did not consider those injuries to be life-threatening.

Because the Big Island has no facility to care for critically ill children, Goldberg said his first concern was to stabilize Makanani and transport her to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children on Oahu.

Although Goldberg said it was a “chaotic situation” he did notice that Wakinekona was “clearly upset.”

Goldberg said a CAT scan done at NHCH showed no other physical trauma to the child’s brain.

Officer Apollo Kepoo said the report of a possible home accident bought him to the hospital, where he spoke with Wakinekona.

Kepoo said Wakinekona left the child alone in the bathtub and returned to find her “partially submerged” and making gurgling noises. Wakinekona told Kepoo he dried and dressed the girl before realizing she was in distress and taking her to his wife.

“He was pretty distraught,” Kepoo said.

Officer Apollo Kepoo. (Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7)

Makanani was pronounced dead at 5:14 p.m. Sunday.

According to testimony Thursday from Detective Scott Kurashiga, the medical examiner listed the cause of death as a near drowning and traumatic head injury, with contributing factors including blunt force trauma to the abdomen that damaged the liver and intestines.

Wakinekona was charged with manslaughter late Sunday. He also is charged with two counts of of abuse of a family or household member for injuries to Makanani’s sisters.

The sisters – Journey, 6 and Taimani, 2 – have been removed from the Wakinekona home and taken into protective custody. The state is finding relatives to care for the girls.

According to the Department of Human Services, “Marley’s siblings remain in foster care and Child Welfare Services is working with the family to identify other relatives and kin as placement options. While the children are in foster care, visits are being arranged for the children to visit with their family.”

In urging Wakinekona be tried in Makanani’s death, deputy prosecutor Janet Garcia said, “The person who last had his hands on that child was the defendant.”

Richard Sing, the Honolulu-based attorney representing Wakinekona, said the state had failed to prove his actions were reckless and pointed to contradictory medical evidence from the emergency room doctor and the medical examiner.

Fujino ruled there was probable cause for Wakinekona to stand trial and ordered him to appear at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 before Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra.

Waimea District Court (Photo by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7)

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