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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Maui fire suspect surrenders

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Richard Acorda

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Dayton Valoroso

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Maxwell Webster

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WAILUKU, Maui A fire at the Pukalani Country Club that put 50 people out of work and caused more than $1 million in damage was started when three teenagers decided to take some golf carts out for a joy ride, police said yesterday.

A security camera mounted outside the clubhouse captured footage of the culprits as they poured flammable liquid on a cart they had removed from an outdoor enclosure and set the cart on fire about 5 a.m. Friday, said Lt. John Jakubczak of the Maui Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division. He said the suspects told police that they burned the cart because they couldn't get it to start.

The flames spread to the clubhouse, destroying 33 golf carts worth $5,000 each and ultimately causing severe fire, smoke and water damage to the pro shop, kitchen, and a popular bar and restaurant.

King Kekaulike High School seniors Maxwell Webster of Ha'iku and Richard Acorda of Pukalani, both 18, were arrested Monday. Webster and Acorda are teammates on the school's basketball team.

A third suspect in the arson, Dayton Valoroso, 18, of Ha'iku, turned himself in to police yesterday and was charged with first-degree criminal property damage, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Valoroso is a former King Kekaulike student.

Police traced a vehicle spotted in the security camera footage to Webster, Jakubczak said.

All three suspects were being held yesterday in lieu of $50,000 bail and were expected to make their initial court appearance today in Wailuku District Court.

Pukalani Country Club General Manager Yasuo Nishida said the 50 or so people who were employed at the restaurant have been told to seek unemployment benefits since it would be a while before the building is repaired or rebuilt. Nishida was waiting for phone service to be restored before allowing golf operations to resume.

Friends of the suspects and King Kekaulike staff expressed shock at the arrests, describing the suspects as "good kids" who had not caused trouble at school. "The staff has had a good relationship with these youngsters, and that's why it's so sad," Principal Susan Scofield said.

She said the school community was saddened by the fire and concerned for the welfare of the suspects and their families, as well as for the Pukalani Country Club owner and employees, some of whom are have children who attend King Kekaulike.

"It's had a big impact on the community," Scofield said.

She said the country club has been a reliable supporter of the high school. "I hope we can rebuild the trust between the golf course and the school," she said.

Jakubczak said police are not certain whether Friday's arson is related to an incident last month in which a golf cart and water fountain were burned on the 14th fairway. Two weeks ago, a vehicle tore up the greens at the golf course.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.