Hawaii drive-through victim had ‘lived up to her name, Aloha’
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
MĀKAHA — Family and friends of Raelynn Aloha Adams were bitter and angry yesterday after the 20-year-old's life was cut short by an allegedly intoxicated driver who slammed into her at a McDonald's drive-through.
Adams was run down in the Nānākuli McDonald's drive-through lane around 3 a.m. Sunday after trying to intervene between her boyfriend, 45, and another driver who reportedly honked his horn at them while they awaited their food order and told them to hurry up.
A 15-year-old girl was also injured but was treated and released.
Adams' family and friends said she was acting in character when she tried to persuade her boyfriend, Kimo Venee of Mililani, to leave the other driver alone and come back to the car.
"She lived up to her name, Aloha" said Frank Hunter, Adams' brother-in-law. "A total stranger could walk up to her and say the most terriblest thing to her and she'll turn around and make a joke out of it."
Hunter opened his home to the media yesterday. He wanted the word to get out about the suspect and was hoping the family could find some relief from the pain and loss by talking about the woman they loved. But anger over the death simmered and the group was hoping to rid themselves of that as well.
Hunter said he wanted to make one thing clear — from what he was told, Venee didn't go up to the other driver looking for trouble.
"From what I understand from him is he wanted to know if the guy needed any kind of help or something," he said. "It was like excuse me bruddah, you need help."
Albert Birmingham, 36, of Makiki was charged last night with one count of first-degree negligent homicide and one count of failure to render aid. Bail was set at $150,000 and he is scheduled to make his initial appearance in Honolulu District Court this morning.
Negligent homicide is defined as causing the death of a person by operating a vehicle in a negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Adams' mother, aunt, sister and friends shared their tears and memories of the woman who made them laugh, offered them sage advice and had taken steps to better her future. She spent hours on MySpace, wrote constantly in her diary and loved to dance, they said.
"She was like my big sister," said Karin Brown, 16. "She showed me what was right and what was wrong. She'd stand up for me a lot."
Whenever there was any dispute or problems, Adams would try to make light of it and turn the situation around.
"She would always end with a laugh," said Adams' friend Kelly Kaluna, 19. "She's a very understanding person. We could go to her for anything and she'd always listen. She never gave up any bad advice."
As a young child, Adams always listened to her parents, never cussed or grumbled, said Marie Kalani, niece to Adams' mother, Rosalind Adams.
"Nothing could get her angry," Kalani said. "Nothing would get her upset and that's the type of person she was long as I knew her from baby time."
Adams lived in Kalihi Valley until she was 4 years old, when her family moved to Mākaha. For a while the family lived in Wai'anae but moved back to Mākaha in 2007, which made Adams very happy, said her mother Rosalind Adams.
A good student while in elementary and intermediate school, Aloha Adams didn't do well in high school and dropped out, Rosalind Adams said.
But recently she decided to continue with her education and applied to the Job Corps, Rosalind Adams said. She had many interests but hadn't settled on a career. She had considered military service.
"She wanted to try everything," Rosalind Adams said.
Racheal Adams, Aloha Adams' sister, said she hopes for justice but acknowledged that she wants more.
"I hope he feels pain the way I feel pain," said Racheal Adams, adding that her sister was her best friend. "You know what I mean, for taking one life."
Shaunae Dupont-Burns, 17, a close friend of Aloha Adams, said she was in the automobile with Adams at the McDonald's. Dupont-Burns said she also got out of the car but a stranger, who was eating his dinner in the parking lot, pulled her back just as the vehicle struck her friend.
"It was very frightening to see and shocking," she said, adding that she's mad at the driver and wants to retaliate but will let justice be served.
"Even though we want to do a little bit more than that, we can't," Dupont-Burns said. "Because it's the rightful thing to do because no matter how mad we get at him or do the things we want to, it's not going to bring her back."