Arson suspect in court for unrelated case

  • Justin Bardwell

KAILUA-KONA — The 32-year-old suspect in an arson last month of a vacation rental home in Volcano appeared for a preliminary hearing in Kona District Court Tuesday for charges relating to an alleged assault at Old Kona Airport Park.

Justin Michael Bardwell is charged with open lewdness, fourth-degree sexual assault, second-degree terroristic threatening and kidnapping.

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At the hearing Tuesday, the two female victims recounted the assault at the Makaeo Walking Path on Friday, Dec. 20.

Both testified Bardwell was masturbating on the path when he spotted the two women. He chased them yelling “stop, obey me I’m going to get you.”

Trying to evade the suspect, the women ran until one of the victim’s legs gave out.

“I tried to get up but he kept pushing me back down,” she said. “I was terrified he would rape or kill us.”

She testified Bardwell threw rocks at her friend as she tried to help, and eventually Bardwell went after her. Both women were able to make it to the old runway, where they were met by a group of people responding to their cries for help.

Brent Keddell, a vacationing police officer from Canada, testified he heard the screams and wanted to offer assistance. He said he just wanted to keep an eye on the situation and make sure no one else got hurt until police arrived.

Kona District Court Judge Margaret Masunaga determined probable cause existed to support the charges filed against Bardwell and committed the case to Kona Circuit Court where Judge Melvin H. Fujino will preside over the arraignment and plea.

Bardwell is also charged with first-degree arson in connection with a Nov. 17 incident at a residence on Pukeawe Street in Volcano.

The house fire came three days after the main commercial building containing the pro shop, clubhouse and restaurant at nearby Volcano Golf and Country Club was heavily damaged by an early morning fire. Bardwell has not been charged in connection with that incident.

Masunaga maintained Bardwell’s total bail at $31,750 for both cases. He remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

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Bardwell faces a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday in Hilo District Court for the arson charge.

Kidnapping and first-degree arson are Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment upon conviction. The other charges are misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors.

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