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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Kona killer sentenced to life without parole

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

KEALAKEKUA, Hawai'i — Mark Wade Dunse, the first person to be charged under Hawai'i's enhanced sentencing law, yesterday received a life term in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of harpist Johnnie Mae Nu'uhiwa.

The 43-year-old woman's nude and beaten body was discovered Jan. 6, 1996, at Keawaiki Beach in North Kona. Prosecutors said her head was battered with a rock.

Dunse was convicted of second-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced three months later to life without parole under the 1993 law that allows for the stiffer sentence for slayings that are particularly heinous.

Previously, the maximum punishment for second-degree murder was life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.

However, after Dunse's sentencing, the Hawai'i Supreme Court found that the Legislature had not properly defined "heinous and cruel." The court required a standard that included extreme physical or mental suffering, beyond that which necessarily accompanies the underlying killing.

Although Dunse's conviction was not affected by the court's decision, a second trial on the enhanced sentencing issue was ordered. This past July, a Kona jury agreed that the circumstances of Nu'uhiwa's murder qualified the killer for enhanced sentencing.

Dunse was resentenced yesterday by Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra. The hearing originally was set for a week ago, but prison officials mistakenly flew Dunse from Hilo to O'ahu's Halawa Prison instead of to Kona.