Judge delays decision on mental evaluation in 2018 murder case

  • Kuuipo and Ashley Nihipali

KAILUA-KONA — Another delay has cropped up in the case of two Puna women accused of murder in the 2018 death of a 6-year-old boy at a Kealakehe apartment complex.

Kuuipo Nihipali and Ashley Nihipali appeared in Kona Circuit Court on Thursday for a return on a mental evaluation of Kuupio Nihipali. The hearing, however, had to be continued after Judge Robert D.S. Kim revealed the court had only received two of the three doctor’s reports because one of the doctors was ill and unable to meet with the defendant.

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The court will now take up the matter in early January. If Kuuipo Nihipali is found fit to stand trial, a new trial date will be set then for both defendants because the two women are being tried together.

The two Puna women are accused in connection with the death of 6-year-old Mazen Kaniela Nihipali-Moniz on Halloween 2018 and abusing him and his siblings for months prior at the Lailani Apartment complex in Kealakehe.

Kuuipo Nihipali is charged with one count second-degree murder; one count second-degree murder as principal and/or accomplice; six counts second-degree felony abuse of a family or household member as principal and/or accomplice; first-degree hindering prosecution as principal and/or accomplice; tampering with evidence as principal and/or accomplice; and two counts first-degree terroristic threatening as principal and/or accomplice, according to an indictment handed down July 31.

Ashley Nihipali is facing one count second-degree murder as principal and/or accomplice; six counts second-degree felony abuse of a family or household member as principal and/or accomplice; first-degree hindering prosecution as principal and/or accomplice; tampering with evidence as principal and/or accomplice; and two counts first-degree terroristic threatening as principal and/or accomplice, according to the indictment.

Each pleaded not guilty to all of the charges following their indictment in early August. Both remain confined at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $1 million bail.

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Nihipali-Moniz was pronounced dead about 5:30 p.m. Oct. 31, 2018, after being taken by medics from the Kailua Fire Station to Kona Community Hospital. The 6-year-old was brought unconscious by a family member to the station.

Police said the child was reportedly involved in an “incident” and been found unconscious at the Lailani Apartment complex on Manawalea Street. The child’s death was ruled a homicide after autopsy results revealed the cause of death involved trauma.

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