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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 7, 2006

Killer of sumo wrestler sentenced to life term

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

A 31-year-old man was sentenced to a mandatory life prison term with possibility of parole for murdering a former sumo wrestler he called his friend, but only after he heard an emotional plea from the victim's relatives and after he tearfully asked for forgiveness.

Kealiiokalani Meheula was sentenced by Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto before a packed courtroom for the stabbing murder of Percy Kipapa in a pickup truck in Kahalu'u on May 16, 2005.

George Kipapa, the victim's father, said he was not only proud of his son's sumo career, but also because his son learned about love.

The father said he hopes Meheula can also learn about love wherever he may be.

"I'm sorry you decided to do what you did, but in the future, put down your hands and embrace share love, not hate, not anger," the father told Meheula, his cheeks glistening with tears.

But Jolyn Kipapa, the victim's sister-in-law, had harsh words.

"Don't ever say he was your friend because he wasn't," she told Meheula. "Friends don't kill friends."

She said she hopes he remains in prison for a long time "because you don't know how much you hurt our family and how much we miss Percy."

Meheula sobbed when he turned to Percy Kipapa's family, apologized and asked them for forgiveness.

"Words cannot express the pain I feel in my heart," he told them.

He said Percy Kipapa was his friend.

"I loved him with my whole heart and my soul," he said. "I have to live with this for the rest of my life."

Also speaking in court was Mark Panek, a friend of Percy Kipapa and author of a biography on sumo champion Chad Rowan. Panek said he met Percy Kipapa in Japan and said the other sumo wrestlers from Hawai'i miss him.

Percy Kipapa, a Castle High School classmate of Meheula, spent seven years in Japan.

During the trial earlier this year, Meheula testified he stabbed his friend multiple times because Percy Kipapa was choking him and Meheula thought he would die.

But city Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim maintained that Meheula attacked the unarmed man.

The Circuit Court jury rejected the self-defense contention as well as a lesser conviction of manslaughter in finding Meheula guilty of murder.

Sakamoto also sentenced Meheula to a one-year jail term for terroristic threatening to run at the same time as the murder sentence. According to the prosecution, Meheula threatened his wife, who was then his girlfriend, with a hunting rifle last year.

The Hawai'i Paroling Authority will later set the minimum term Meheula must serve before he is eligible for release on parole.

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.