Wai'alae Nui beatings stun quiet community
• Photo gallery: Wai'alae Nui attack
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
A middle-of-the-night beating that left an 85-year-old woman and the longtime caregiver who called her "Aunty" in critical condition yesterday shocked and worried residents of sleepy Wai'alae Nui.
The neighborhood just up the hill from Kahala Mall is known as a relatively low-crime area. Property crimes are the more common problem here — a far cry from the attack that took place about 3:30 a.m. in the white house with blue trim at 1451 Halekoa Drive.
Neighbors said the owner of the home, Mary Lee Koskinen, 85, and her caregiver, Matthew Edmondson, 40, were taken away by ambulance even as police cordoned off the crime scene.
Gabrielle Weightman said her family was awakened when Kona, the dog at Koskinen's house next door, began barking loudly at 3 a.m., which set off the Weightmans' dog, Zoo, a 1-year-old pit bull and golden retriever mix that rarely barks at anything.
"She kept barking and she wouldn't stop, and then she got really scared, and I got a little concerned," said Weightman, 17.
She said the barking and commotion continued until suddenly police, firefighters and ambulances converged on the scene. Police Capt. Letha DeCaires said officers were dispatched to the house at 3:25 a.m. on a noise complaint.
"We came down to see if everything was OK," Weightman said, "and then we saw that Matt and Mary Lee had been beaten pretty badly, and we just don't understand how that could have happened."
Later, when she took Zoo for her morning walk at around 7:30 a.m., the dog sniffed out a bloody jacket in the bushes not far from the house. The girl turned the jacket over to police.
"It had bloodstains on the sleeves," she said. "They looked pretty recent. I didn't want to touch it."
Police opened a first-degree robbery case in connection with yesterday's incident, but they were unclear whether the assault was the result of a home invasion, burglary or some other crime.
"We're not sure yet if it was a home invasion-type crime or if the suspect or suspects knew someone in the home, or if it was a grudge thing or whatever," said Maj. Robert Green, who oversees the Honolulu Police Department's District 7, which includes the Halekoa Drive home where the attack took place.
"But home invasion crimes in Hawai'i are relatively rare."
Police District 7 stretches from the Punahou area to Makapu'u Point and property crimes, not crimes of violence, are the main law enforcement issue, Green said.
The home where the man and woman were apparently assaulted yesterday is in police beat 768, which stretches from Kalaniana'ole Highway to the top of Halekoa Drive in Wai'alae Nui Ridge.
Statistics gathered by HPD show that during the three-year period from 2006 through 2009, there were no murders, one rape, 10 robberies and eight aggravated assaults in the area.
That compares with 169 reported burglaries, 359 larcenies and 65 auto thefts reported to HPD in the same three-year period.
"We are doing a number of things to address the property crime issue," Green said. "Our burglary and theft details have made some significant arrests and we are looking for more improvement during the coming year."
The subject of burglaries on Halekoa Drive came up at the Sept. 17 meeting of the Wai'alae-Kāhala Neighborhood Board.
Residents pointed out burglaries on Halekoa Drive between the 1700 and 2100 block, mentioning that it used to be a "hot spot" for trouble and asking whether the problem was returning. Honolulu police responded that the crimes that were occurring were crimes of opportunity.
MOVED FROM CALIF.
Meanwhile, neighbors said Koskinen is a widow who has lived in the area for 10 or 11 years, having moved there from California.
Yesterday morning, Leona Weightman, Gabrielle's mother, had been nervously trying to check on the condition of Koskinen and Edmondson.
Edmondson was taken to the hospital in critical condition while Koskinen was initially reported in serious condition. Later, DeCaires said both were in critical but stable condition.
"This happened at 3:30 in the morning, and we haven't had any sleep since then," Leona Weightman said.
"What we know right now is that she's conscious, and — she has dementia, so she was very repetitive — and they (hospital personnel) were doing a CAT scan.
"My husband saw Matt being loaded into the ambulance and he said he really had a lot of head trauma and damage to his face."
Police indicated that Edmondson is Koskinen's nephew, but Weightman disputed that.
"No, they're not blood relation," she said. "He just calls her 'Aunty.' He's a caretaker — he's been her caretaker about 10 years."