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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ex-Hawai'i man sentenced for killings

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Islands Editor

Former Islander Eddie Rapoza continued to proclaim his innocence as he was sentenced yesterday in San Mateo County, Calif., Superior Court to life in prison without possibility of parole for killing his pregnant wife and two daughters by driving a van off a 150-foot sea cliff at Moss Beach, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2002.

"I am not a murderer," Rapoza began to say before he was interrupted by Judge Carl W. Holm, who retorted, "Yes, you are."

A jury in April convicted Rapoza, 38, of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of wife Raye, 34, daughter Tehani, 4, and the nearly full-term fetus Raye Rapoza was carrying. The Foster City, Calif., man did not apologize yesterday and repeated claims made by his defense team during trial that his foot was jammed between the pedals of his 2002 Dodge Caravan, rendering him unable to prevent the car from plunging over the cliff.

Eddie and Raye Rapoza were high school sweethearts from Wai'anae. Family members and friends testified during the trial that the couple had a stormy relationship and that Rapoza was jealous and abusive. While the couple lived on Maui, Raye Rapoza filed for a restraining order against her husband on Dec. 5, 1995, saying that Eddie Rapoza would kill her and himself before he would let her walk out on him.

"When we drive in the car and he gets upset, he drives recklessly, saying that if I don't shut up he will drive us both off a cliff," she said in her statement.

San Mateo County prosecutor Al Giannini also relied on a hospital confession Rapoza made to police while recovering from injuries and brought a full-scale model of a minivan into the courtroom to dispute the defendant's explanation of the crash.

"This was just a terrible crime," Giannini said after the sentencing. "The image of a 4-year-old child going over that cliff is going to stay with us for a long time."

Holm called the crimes "cowardly" and ordered that two terms of 15-years-to-life in prison for the deaths of the two girls run consecutively to the life term without parole for Raye Rapoza's murder.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.