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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Family and friends mourn McCully stabbing victim

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sato Franklin S. Sigrah, left, accused of stabbing Lyola Mesebeluu to death, faces charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A mother who was stabbed to death Saturday in what appears to be a random killing was a thoughtful, gentle person whose death has left her husband and toddler daughter distraught, her aunt said yesterday.

"She was always thoughtful and sincere," said Evelyn Misech, Lyola Mesebeluu's maternal aunt. "It's just so sad."

Mesebeluu, 27, was asleep in the bedroom with her 2-year-old daughter, Kiarra, while her husband, Keith, was asleep on the couch, after arriving home late from his job as a sushi chef, when they were attacked, Misech said.

Keith Mesebeluu, 26, told police that he awoke to his wife's screams around 4:10 a.m. Saturday. He is recovering at The Queen's Medical Center from stab wounds, Misech said. Kiarra was also injured in the attack and was released from the hospital.

The man accused in the crime, Sato Franklin S. Sigrah, 19, of a North Judd Street address, appeared before District Judge Philip Doi yesterday. The judge confirmed his $500,000 bail and set a preliminary hearing for tomorrow.

Sigrah is charged with attempted first-degree murder, second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and burglary, all felonies.

His arms shackled behind him, Sigrah wore a white jail jump suit at the court appearance. Family members crowded into the courtroom. Some left red-eyed after the morning court appearance, declining comment.

Misech said she was appalled to learn the door to the family's third-floor apartment, at 2222 Kapi'olani Blvd., was unlocked at the time of the attack. Neighbors reported that they heard someone jiggling door knobs before the fatal stabbing.

"I don't know if it was his habit to sleep on the couch, but I know he came home after midnight most nights and didn't want to disrupt their rest and plopped down on the couch," Misech said. "I was appalled that the door wasn't locked. But I don't know if it was a habit to leave it unlocked."

The aunt said Lyola and Keith Mesebeluu were sweethearts at Kaimuki High School. They dated in high school, went their separate ways for college and then reunited one summer while they were at home in Palau, Misech said. They were married in 2005 when Lyola Mesebeluu was pregnant with their daughter, Kiarra.

Co-workers of the couple reacted with shock yesterday.

Lyola Mesebeluu's colleagues at the Bank of Hawaii Ala Moana branch where she worked as a teller for the past year set up a memorial fund in her name. Donations can be made to the Lyola Mesebeluu Memorial Fund and dropped off at any Bank of Hawaii branch.

"This is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Keith, Kiarra and the Mesebeluu family," Danny Kim, bank senior vice president and East O'ahu regional manager, said in a prepared statement. "Everyone here at the bank is shocked and in disbelief. Lyola was loved by her fellow Bank of Hawaii employees and her customers.

"She was so upbeat with a positive spirit. We received numerous customer compliments pointing out her excellent service. We're going to miss her very much."

Bank of Hawaii and its employees will also assist the family. The family's wishes are to return the woman's body to her native Palau, where the bank has a branch.

"We are all so sad," said Alvin Divina, manager at Makino Chaya, a Japanese restaurant where Keith Mesebeluu worked for about five years. "Keith is a tremendous help here and a good friend to a lot of us. It's a tremendous loss to all of us."

Funeral arrangements in Honolulu are pending. Misech said that Lyola Mesebeluu's mother and sister also live in Hawai'i and that the husband's parents arrived on Sunday from Palau.

"We're a very close family," Misech said. "It's our culture to be together, especially when you're so far away from home. We get together several nights a week either at their home or mine."

Relatives yesterday went to visit Keith Mesebeluu at the hospital, where he was in stable condition, recovering from a stab wound to the left side that barely missed his liver, Misech said.

"We want to make sure Keith is up on his feet. We gotta take care of Keith first," she said.

Lyola Mesebeluu was found bleeding on the bedroom floor by police officers who responded to complaints of a domestic argument at 4:10 a.m. Saturday. Keith Mesebeluu was found standing near the bedroom door covered in blood. Sigrah was found sitting on the kitchen floor, also covered in blood, according to a police affidavit filed in District Court.

Keith Mesebeluu told police that Sigrah stabbed him and his family. Officers found a large kitchen knife, believed to be the murder weapon, at the scene. Prosecutors plan to seek an extended sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if Sigrah is convicted of first-degree attempted murder.

The enhanced sentence applies to the attempted murder of the child.

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.