North Kohala man will go on trial for attempted murder

By Tiffany DeMasters West Hawaii Today

WAIMEA — The defense attorney for a North Kohala man accused of attempted homicide questioned a state witness extensively on several photos of skid marks from the incident where the suspect allegedly used his vehicle to ram two individuals traveling in a Toyota Tacoma earlier this month.

The preliminary hearing for Dwight Antonio Rivera concluded Tuesday afternoon with testimonies from first responders and investigators to the scene.

The hearing began April 11 with testimonies from the two victims who say on April 6, Rivera rammed their vehicle with his truck while traveling on Highway 250.

On Tuesday, the state presented three witnesses. One of those individuals was Officer Justin Hooser with Hawaii Police Department. He testified that he works in the traffic enforcement unit and is an accident reconstruction investigator.

About 15 photos were presented to the court that showed evidence of a crash the night Rivera allegedly rammed his Dodge Ram truck into the Tacoma, which was occupied by a 31-year-old North Kohala woman and 36-year-old Kamuela man at the time.

The victims were traveling home from work when Rivera came up from behind them in what they testified to be his red Dodge Ram. The woman testified she had been in a relationship with the suspect in the past, but confirmed they were no longer together. However, they were on talking terms.

Hooser testified that while he was on scene he observed several skid marks going different directions.

After looking at Rivera’s truck, Hooser testified the rear-right tire was bald with the steel belts showing through as well as melted rubber.

After looking at the victims’ truck, Hooser told the court he observed the driver side was smashed up and in, indicating that the Tacoma was lifted and pushed.

Hooser testified that the male victim gave statements about what happened that night which explained the skid marks. Evidence shows the victim’s truck was hit at least six times.

Wendy DeWeese, Rivera’s defense attorney, questioned Hooser on several of the photographs and what the skid marks meant in each picture. She also asked if the skid marks alone would have helped him determine what happened without the victim’s version of the night’s events.

“I think I would’ve been able to piece it together,” he said.

Both vehicles were not on the scene when Hooser investigated the accident. He testified the accelerating skid marks came from the same vehicle. Heavy burned rubber marks and residue left behind is currently being tested to verify which vehicle left the marks.

 Hooser said the damage to the Tacoma was consistent to a collision of 20-30 mph.

“The skid marks are consistent with someone in control of the vehicle,” Hooser told the court.

Officer Justin Cabanting also took the stand. He testified that he received a report from dispatch at about 1 a.m. about a disturbance. As he was headed to the scene on Highway 250, he told the court he saw a red Dodge Ram pass him, which had a flat tire on the front driver side.

Dispatch later informed him a red Dodge Ram was involved in the incident.

After attempting to locate the truck, Cabanting testified, dispatch contacted him about the truck’s location at a residence in the area.

When he and other officers arrived on scene, they observed the Dodge truck with the blown front tire, front-end damage and cracked front lights.

Cabanting said rubber shadings were also found on the car as well as rubber stuck to the inside of the wheel well.

Hawaii Police Det. Brandon Mansur, lead investigator in the case, took the stand. He said there were documents in the truck that showed the vehicle belonged to Rivera. Five rounds of ammunition were also found in a clear plastic bag in the glove box.

After two hours, the prosecution submitted that Rivera acted intentionally and meant to kill the two victims in the Toyota Tacoma truck.

The defense countered there was no evidence that Rivera knew there was more than one person in the truck. The accident was at low speed, which goes to show there was no intention to kill.

The judge determined sufficient evidence was met by the state and Rivera’s case will be committed to the 3rd Circuit Court.

A request for bail reduction was again denied.