Murder case, take 2: Retrial commences in 2015 Captain Cook slaying

  • Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson delivers opening statements for Eber Miranda-Garcia's murder trial Thursday in Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Defense attorney Terri Fujioka-Lilley delivers opening statements in the murder trial of Eber Miranda-Garcia Thursday in Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Eber Miranda-Garcia is present Thursday in Circuit Court for opening statements in his murder retrial. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Eber Miranda-Garcia is present Thursday in Circuit Court for opening statements in his murder retrial. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KEALAKEKUA — Jury trial commenced a second time for a Holualoa man accused of killing his landlord more than three years ago.

On Thursday, the prosecution and the defense delivered opening statements to the jury in 3rd Circuit Court in the case against Eber Miranda-Garcia, accused of second-degree murder.

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Eber Miranda-Garcia and his brother Marlon were arrested in June 2017 for the killing of Dolores “Lolo” Borja-Valle.

Eber and Marlon Miranda-Garcia were initially tried together in August of 2018. After several weeks of testimony and presentation of evidence, it ended in a mistrial as jurors were unable to unanimously reach a verdict.

Many hearings have taken place since then to prepare for the second trial. In December, 3rd Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim granted the request to sever the brothers’ cases. They will now be tried separately.

A trial date for Marlon Miranda-Garcia has not yet been set. He is also accused of second-degree murder.

On Thursday morning, Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson laid out for the jury what evidence would be presented during the course of the trial.

“In this case, the evidence is going to show you Eber killed Dolores Borja-Valle, also known as Lolo,” Lawson said.

Lolo’s body was found Aug. 9, 2015, in a Captain Cook coffee field off Keopuka Mauka Road. The decedent’s truck was found abandoned in Ocean View a day later.

Lawson explained Lolo worked in the coffee business and lived in a house in Holualoa with the defendant and his family.

“You’re going to hear testimony about the Miranda-Garcia family and how they are tight knit,” she said.

Lawson went to describe Lolo as a simple man, a homebody. He worked in the coffee field and went home. He was close with family, but they were separated by distance as his wife and daughter live in Canada.

Lawson told the jury they would hear testimony that Eber Miranda-Garcia killed Lolo by hitting him with rocks and some sort of sharp pointy object at their Holualoa home. Additionally, there will be testimony of the defendant driving Lolo’s truck with “Lolo’s lifeless body” to Keopuka Mauka Road where “they dumped him like trash.”

“Lolo’s blood was in that truck and Eber’s DNA was on the steering wheel of that truck,” Lawson said.

A rifle at the scene where Lolo was found also tested positive with Eber Miranda-Garcia’s DNA on its butt.

“Eber and his family told police they didn’t know what happened to Lolo but they gave police a timeline,” Lawson said. “The testimony you’ll hear is Eber was home sleeping and later that was not the case.”

Cellphone tower dumps were done in the course of the investigation. They discovered Marlon Miranda-Garcia’s phone hit two towers in the area where the truck was found and Lolo’s body was dumped.

“And that is when the investigation focused,” Lawson said.

“You’ll hear from Eber himself,” Lawson stated. “He’s going to tell you how he killed Lolo and why. He will tell you this.”

The evidence, the prosecutor added, is going to show his brother Marlon helped him.

Lawson told the jury the state is going to ask they find Eber Miranda-Garcia guilty as charged for the count of murder in the second degree.

Defense counsel Terri Fujioka-Lilley next provided her opening statement to the jurors. She explained her client moved from Honduras, picked coffee, fell in love with a local girl, got married and worked for a construction company building rock walls.

Fujioka-Lilley told the jury Lolo operated the cherry drop station for the coffee company Mountain Thunder and was the de facto landlord for the home that he and the Miranda-Garcias lived in that was also located on Mountain Thunder property.

“Lolo was good to that family,” Fujioka-Lilley stated. “He doted on his daughter. Taught him English.”

The defense counsel added Eber Miranda-Garcia saw Lolo as a father or an uncle.

“Throughout August of 2015 police contacted the Miranda-Garcia family and they provided DNA samples and finger prints,” she said in an effort to assist in their investigation.

In June of 2017, police showed up at Eber Miranda-Garcia’s job site and was placed under arrest.

Fujioka-Lilley stated her client was unable to call his wife after his initial arrest and didn’t speak to police until after sitting for a day in the cellblock.

“At first he tried to insist the police got things all wrong,” she said when police questioned her client after the arrest.

However, Fujioka-Lilley asserts police told Eber Miranda-Garcia his entire family had been arrested. Not wanting his daughter to be alone, he was convinced the only way to help her was to confess to a crime he didn’t commit.

“You’re not going to learn where (Lolo) was killed, when he was killed, why he was killed and what weapon was used,” Fujioka-Lilley said of Lolo’s death. “Most importantly, you won’t learn who killed Mr. Borja-Valle.”

The defense attorney spoke to the DNA found in Lolo’s truck and on the butt of his rifle, indicating it would be no surprise her client’s DNA was on those items since he had used and handled them in the past.

Fujioka-Lilley stated police outright ignored 45 other phones that pinged off the Verizon tower the night Lolo disappeared. They weren’t checked. On top of that, authorities didn’t look at other phone carriers who use the same towers.

People who had actual motives to harm Lolo were not questioned or not pursued for further investigation.

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“The police themselves have to acknowledge that without Eber’s confession they have no case,” Fujioka-Lilley stated.

The first day of trial continued with the state putting on their case. The burden of proof lies with the state to prove Eber Miranda-Garcia is responsible for this crime.

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