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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Kauhi's minimum term set at 50 years

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A man who admitted beating to death a 74-year-old woman nearly seven years ago will spend at least 50 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

The Hawai'i Paroling Authority set the minimum sentence for Samson Kauhi, 39. Kauhi pleaded guilty last year to the 1994 murder of Ellen Lum in her lower Makiki home

Benjamin Lum, one of Ellen Lum's six children, said he hoped that the minimum term would be longer than 50 years. He said the parole board was restricted in its sentencing because of Kauhi's plea agreement with the state.

"A life is a life. But if the government feels that certain people's lives are more important than other people's lives, there's not much I can say about that," Lum said Monday from his California home. "At this point, as long as he is in jail for a very long time, and if he gets out, hopefully he'll be too old to do anything to someone else."

A jury found Kauhi guilty in 1995 of murder and burglary, and he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The parole board set consecutive minimum sentences of 40 years for the murder conviction and 10 years for the burglary.

But the convictions were thrown out by the Hawai'i Supreme Court in 1997 because of a flaw in the jury selection. A new trial was ordered, but Kauhi pleaded guilty in August 2000 to one count of murder. In return, prosecutors agreed to drop the burglary charge and not to take a position on his sentence with the parole board.

When Kauhi appeared before the paroling authority last month, his attorney, Clifford Hunt, argued that the 40-year minimum term for the murder count should stand because of the plea agreement. Backed by an opinion from the state attorney general's office, the parole board increased the minimum sentence to 50 years.

Kauhi pleaded guilty to breaking into Ellen Lum's home and ransacking it in a search for drugs. He didn't find any and punched, kicked, stomped and then strangled Lum.

The 4-foot-11, 118-pound woman was beaten so badly that her back was broken, her shoulder was dislocated and her brain bled.