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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 7, 2009

1977 Moiliili murder case resolved; shooter, 52, gets 20 years in prison

Advertiser Staff

A 31-year-old murder case was resolved this morning when Melvin Kumukau admitted he shot Mo'ili'ili shop owner Toshio Kawano during a botched robbery attempt in 1977.

Under a plea deal reached with the state attorney general's cold case unit, Kumukau pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter and first-degree robbery and was immediately sentenced by Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall to 20 years in prison.

Kumukau, 52, declined to address the court before he was sentenced.

Charges against co-defendant Aaron Meyer are pending, although court records indicate Meyer has cooperated with investigators. Deputy Attorney General Christopher Young declined to comment on Meyer's case.

Roy Kawano, son of the victim, said his family had met with prosecutors and investigators involved in the case and had agreed with the plea agreement reached with Kumukau.

"We talked about different scenarios about what would happen and this was the best one," Kawano said.

"After all this time," he said, family members "did have closure already."

Kumukau and Meyer intended to rob Toshio Kawano of a collection of samurai swords he kept in his bakery, but the victim defended himself with his own firearm, Young said.

He died of gunshot wounds to the abdomen and cheek, said Young.