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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:14 p.m., Friday, May 23, 2003

Murder verdicts formally accepted

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn today accepted the verdicts reached by a jury yesterday afternoon and found Jason K. Perry guilty of strangling a Kapahulu woman last year and fatally shooting a Honolulu man four days later to keep him from going to police with information about the first incident.

Ahn also accepted the jury's verdict that Perry, 24, was guilty of conspiring with others to kidnap Tracey Tominaga, 37, and to take her to a remote area in the mountains above Makakilo where she was killed.

Ahn set Perry's sentencing for 10 a.m. July 28.

Members of Perry's and Tominaga's families blamed the illicit drug crystal methamphetamine for a series of crimes that left two people dead and eight others facing prison time for felony offenses.

Ahn did not formally accept the jury's verdicts when they were announced late yesterday afternoon. Instead, she took the unusual step of ordering the jury back to court this morning.

Ahn this morning did not explain the delay in accepting the verdicts, but city Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter said after the hearing that Ahn wanted time to research a legal matter that had to do with the prosecution's intention to seek a mandatory minimum term against Perry at the time of sentencing because he used a semiautomatic firearm to kill one of the victims.

In the rare double-murder trial, Perry was tried on charges of murdering Tominaga in January 2002 and shooting Edward Fuller to death in Nu'uanu four days later.

Ahn concluded that because of the way the jury answered one of the questions on the jury form, the prosecution will not be able to pursue a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for Perry in connection with Fuller's death, Van Marter said.

But Van Marter said the inability to seek the gun enhancement against Perry is essentially meaningless because he plans to ask that Perry be sentenced to two terms of life without parole for the deaths of Tominaga and Fuller, and an additional 20 years for conspiring to kidnap Tominaga.

Donald Tominaga, Tracey Tominaga's father, said the verdict brings a sense of closure to his family. In addition to her father, Tominaga's mother, Betty, and brothers Darren and Richard were in court to hear Ahn accept the verdict.

Donald Tominaga said his family's Christian values have helped them forgive Perry. He said his family offered their forgiveness to Perry's family members before the hearing this morning and that the Perry family offered their condolences and apologies to his family.

"If you harbor hatred in your heart, it can only destroy you and your family," Tominaga said.

"Even though we lost our daughter, at least justice has been done," Tominaga said. He said he hopes the tragic end to his daughter's life will help spur "our community the people on this island" to come to grips with a burgeoning methamphetamine problem.

The jury deliberated for about two days before finding Perry guilty as charged on all counts.

Van Marter said throughout the trial that Perry had sworn revenge against Tominaga after Tominaga and a male acquaintance, Kaimi Seu, stuck a shotgun in Perry's face and took crystal methamphetamine and cash from him Jan. 18, 2002, at Tominaga's home on Brokaw Street.

Van Marter argued that Perry lured Tominaga to go with him to Makakilo three days later, and once there, killed her. Ryan Onuma, a key prosecution witness, claimed that Perry straddled Tominaga, put his hands around her neck and choked her until her body went limp.

But Perry's lawyer, David Bettencourt, contended that Onuma wrapped duct tape so tightly around Tominaga's head that she suffocated and that Onuma went to police and implicated Perry in order to get a "sweetheart deal" for himself.

When Perry took the stand in his own defense last week, he said he never hit Tominaga and that he had only intended to scare her into giving him the name of the man who held the shotgun to his face a few days earlier.

The prosecution maintained that Perry was responsible for both murders.