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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Puna suspect's parents say boy mentally slow

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

PAHOA, Hawai'i — A 14-year-old Big Island boy accused of raping and murdering 6-year-old Kau'ilani Tadeo has an IQ of 45, well below average, according to his father, who cited a recent evaluation by a Department of Education psychologist.

 •  Contributions for the fund-raiser are being accepted at Pua Tahiti Productions, Box 10688, Hilo, HI 96721.

Tokumoto can be reached at PuaTokumoto@aol.com or (808) 935-3002.

Mark Davis Sr., the father of Mark Davis Jr., said yesterday that the Pahoa Intermediate and High School seventh-grader has the mental facilities of a 5-year-old and has been terrified since his arrest Saturday night at his 'Opae Street home in the Hawaiian Beaches subdivision.

The boy is charged with second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree sexual assault. He remains in a juvenile detention facility on O'ahu, after a brief Hilo court appearance Monday.

"We were told that he couldn't sleep, he keeps rocking back and forth, and pinching and picking at himself," said his father. "They said he's just going crazy."

Davis, 41, said his son denies any involvement in Kau'ilani's death. Her body was found Thursday in an abandoned house not far from the Davis home. An autopsy determined that she died from a blow to the head.

"When (police came to the house), we asked him if he did it and he kept telling us, 'No, no,' " Davis said.

Hawai'i County Prosecutor Jay Kimura has not said whether he will seek to have Family Court waive jurisdiction over Mark Jr. so that the teenager can be tried as an adult. But it is likely his mental capacity will be a factor considered by the court.

"They should wait for DNA tests to come back before they accuse him and put him through so much hell, as they have," Davis said.

Because of confidentiality laws regarding juvenile suspects, detectives and prosecutors declined to say whether they had collected DNA evidence such as skin samples that may have been left under the victim's fingernails.

The boy's teacher, his principal and several neighbors said he had scratches on his face the day after the killing.

"We asked him what happened and he said he had been playing with a friend who accidentally scratched him while they were boarding the school bus Thursday," said John Theisman, a special education teacher at Pahoa Intermediate and High School.

Theisman and the school's principal, Maring Gacusana, said the boy had not had any serious problems since he began attending classes there a little over a month ago after moving up from Pahoa Elementary.

"Mark responded very favorably to a highly structured environment," Theisman said.

Theisman and Gacusana said it would not be immediately apparent to a stranger that the boy was mentally impaired and they knew of no instances in which he had been bullied by other students.

"If you were holding a conversation with him for fairly long, you would be clued in that he had some problems, such as a speech impediment," Theisman said. "But he was more than capable of taking care of himself in the community. He could go to the store on his own, but he might not know exactly how much change he had coming."

"This is extremely baffling for us," Gacusana said. "He was not aggressive. He was never brought to my office because he was fighting or anything."

The boy's mother, Ellen Davis, 38, said her son is "mentally retarded" but not emotionally disturbed or violent. "He was never labeled psychotic or violent or anything like that," she said.

She presented a school psychologist's recent evaluation that determined her son had an IQ of 45. He was "cooperative and attentive" during an interview, the evaluation states, "but appears to have articulation problems."

An IQ of 85 to 115 generally is considered within the range of average intelligence.

The school evaluation also said the boy had attended school in Michigan. Although the Davises would not say when they moved to the Big Island, several neighbors said the family has lived in the area less than two years.

Mark Sr. and Ellen Davis were arrested on drug charges Saturday night after police officers, who had gone to the home to arrest the boy, found marijuana on the property, said Lt. James Kelly. Edward Fidles, 40, who lives at the house, was also arrested.

All three adults were booked and released Saturday without being charged. Police declined to say how much marijuana was found.

Hawaiian Beaches subdivision residents have been on edge since learning that the girl was killed, said Doreen Brown.

"Raping someone is bad enough, but killing? It's unthinkable," she said.

Initia Falasii, who lives near the victim's family, said it would be a long time before the shock wears off.

"Everybody's scared now and we can't sleep at night," she said. "Usually, my doors and windows would be open, but not anymore. Now they're all locked."

Neighbors said the boy usually hung around with his younger brother and two friends, riding bikes through the neighborhood or playing in a fort they had built in bushes at the end of 'Opae Street.

Speaking in her native Tagalog, Kau'ilani's grandmother, Remedios Reyes, said that she had seen the boy occasionally and that he did not seem seriously disturbed.

"It's very difficult to accept. We're just praying and we hope that everything will be OK, and they will follow the proper procedure for my granddaughter, and they will see what happened, so that it won't happen again," said Reyes, who immigrated to Hawai'i from the Philippines in the 1970s.

A stream of neighbors, and relatives from as far away as Tahiti, stopped by the family's home yesterday to pay their respects. Several people placed lei on the gate to the empty house were Kau'ilani's body was found.

A benefit performance for her family will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Hilo Civic Auditorium. The event is being organized by a newly formed group called "Friends of Kau'ilani Tadeo," led by Pua Tokumoto.

"This is a celebration-of-life concert," said Tokumoto, a Hilo resident who has organized two Tahiti Fetes to celebrate the Polynesian dance form. Kau'ilani performed in the 2001 Tahiti Fete.

Advertiser staff writer Hugh Clark contributed to this report.