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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Charges in Maui fire in abeyance

Advertiser Staff

WAILUKU, Maui Prosecutors have dropped charges against three 18-year-old men who were accused of torching the Pukalani Country Club.

Deputy County Prosecutor John Tam said authorities need more time to process evidence in the case and to determine the appropriate charges. He said it is likely that the case will be presented soon to a grand jury for indictment of suspects Maxwell Webster and Dayton Valoroso, both of Ha'iku, and Richard Acorda of Pukalani. Webster and Acorda are seniors at King Kekaulike High School in Pukalani.

Friday's fire caused more than $1 million to the golf course's clubhouse, shutting down golf and restaurant operations. A security camera mounted outside the clubhouse showed three people setting fire to a golf cart, using a flammable liquid. The flames spread to the clubhouse, destroying 33 golf carts valued at $5,000 each and causing severe fire, smoke and water damage to the rest of the building.

The camera also showed a vehicle that was traced to Webster, police said.

The three men were charged with first-degree criminal property damage, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. To prove the offense, which has a $20,000 damage threshold, prosecutors would have to show that the suspects intentionally set fire to the clubhouse.

The teens told detectives they meant only to burn the cart, because they couldn't get it to start, police said.