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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 19, 2010

Woman who caused fatal Hawaii crash was driving without license

By David Waite and Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writers

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kaaikalau Kamakea-Naluai,13, was described by his grand uncle as playful but respectful.

Navarre family photo

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Police investigators examine the pickup truck after the Wednesday crash that killed Kaaikalau Kamakea-Naluai.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A Waimānalo woman arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide in the death of her 13-year-old nephew has a history of driving without a valid driver's license and other minor traffic offenses, and had her license suspended for three months just hours before she apparently made an illegal U-turn that led to the fatal accident.

State District Court records show that Verna-Lee Kaleiwohi, 33, had amassed seven traffic tickets between Feb. 10, 2008, and Dec. 16, 2009. One of them was for failure to have an licensed adult driver with her while driving under the authority of an instructional permit, and one was for driving without a license.

Family members say Kaaikalau Kamakea -Naluai, 13, was a good boy who was on his way to church in a pickup truck driven by his aunt when the accident happened Wednesday night.

Reports from the scene that Kaleiwohi was Kaai's mother were incorrect.

Kaai, as he was known to family, was riding in the pickup's bed with a 12-year-old cousin, Kaleiwohi's son.

Police say Kaleiwohi was driving in the right-hand lane of the Waimānalo-bound Kalaniana'ole Highway at approximately 6:35 p.m. when she crossed over the left lane and attempted a U-turn near the entrance to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility in Olomana.

The pickup was struck by a red BMW, and the impact threw Kaai from the truck bed and onto the pavement, traffic investigators said.

Kaai was taken to Castle Medical Center in critical condition, but died of his injuries about an hour later.

His cousin was not ejected from the truck bed but suffered serious injuries. A 32-year-old man who was in the truck's passenger seat was not injured.

Kaleiwohi was arrested following the collision on suspicion of negligent homicide, police investigators said.

Earlier that day, Kaleiwohi appeared in Kāne'ohe District Court for sentencing on one of three violations issued on Dec. 16, 2009.

Kaleiwohi was cited Dec. 16 for failure to have an adult licensed driver with her while driving under the authority of an instructional permit, driving without insurance and failure to immediately notify police or the owner of damaged property following a minor accident.

On Feb. 11, Kaleiwohi was fined $75 for driving without a licensed driver with her and the same amount for the failure-to-notify offense. She was ordered at that hearing to return to court on Wednesday to be sentenced on the driving-without-insurance charge.

For that offense, Kaleiwohi was ordered to perform 75 hours of community service and her driver's license was ordered suspended for three months, although there is a notation to the court record that no license was surrendered.

Court records also show Kaleiwohi was issued four traffic tickets on Feb. 10, 2008, on the Big Island for allegedly driving without a license, no insurance, driving without a current safety sticker and carrying a child between 4 and 8 years old in a vehicle without a safety or booster seat.

Court records show that the charges of driving without insurance and without a license were never resolved. Default judgments were entered by the court against Kaleiwohi on the safety sticker and booster seat charges.

Charges against her in the death of her nephew were pending yesterday.

Meanwhile, the family was grieving Kaai's death.

From the time he was 1 year old, Kaai had been raised largely by his grandmother, Lurline Kanoa, and she was too distraught to speak to the media yesterday, said Darren Navarre, the grand uncle of the deceased.

Toni Kamakea-Naluai, Kaai's mother and Navarre's niece, likewise was unable to comment, he said.

"She was there at the hospital" upon learning that Kaai had been hurt, Navarre said.

Kaai was surrounded by relatives as he grew up in the Hale Apuni subdivision in Waimānalo.

He was the stepgrandson of Island entertainer Melveen Leed.

For about the past year, he had been reconnecting with his biological mom, said Crystal Navarre, Darren Navarre's sister and Kaai's grand aunt.

"He was a very good boy," Crystal Navarre said. "He was having a little trouble in school (because of his grades) but other than that he was very good."

He was playful but respectful, Darren Navarre said.

Kaai was a student at Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School in Kāne'ohe and enjoyed music and playing games on the computer, Crystal Navarre said. He had a lot of friends, she said.

"He was learning to ride skateboard with his mom," she said.

Kaai Kamakea-Naluai is also survived by a younger sister and his father, Kakela.