Guilty verdict in child starving case

  • TIFFANY STONE

  • In this 2017 file photo, Tiffany Stone, left, appears in Hilo Circuit Court with her court-appointed attorney, Melody Parker. (JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald file photo)

A Hilo mother accused of starving her 9-year-old daughter to death was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday.

Tiffany Stone, 37, is the mother of Shaelynn Lehano-Stone, who died on June 28, 2016, after she had been allegedly deprived of adequate food, water and medicine for more than nine months.

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Stone was arrested in July 2017 along with the child’s father, Kevin Lehano, and Tiffany Stone’s mother, Henrietta Stone. All three were charged with second-degree murder, to which all three pleaded not guilty.

On June 28, 2016, police and emergency medical personnel responded to a call at a Henrietta Stone’s Kinoole Street apartment near Hilo’s central fire station. There they found Lehano-Stone unconscious and severely malnourished.

The child was taken to Hilo Medical Center, where she died a few hours later.

Court documents state Lehano-Stone had a developmental disability, and was removed from Hilo Union Elementary school to be home-schooled. The child’s grandmother, Henrietta Stone, was her legal guardian.

Tiffany Stone was found fit to stand trial one year ago, and was given a tentative trial date in February 2021. However, on Thursday she appeared in Hilo Circuit Court, where she pleaded no contest to a charge of manslaughter.

While second-degree murder carries a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment, manslaughter in domestic circumstances is a Class A felony, carrying a maximum possible sentence of 20 years of imprisonment.

Stone — who, along with Lehano and her mother, has remained in custody pending a $100,000 bail since her arrest — was outwardly calm during her change of plea, barely reacting to Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto’s reading of the maximum possible sentence, or deputy prosecuting attorney Suzanna Tiapula’s summary of the circumstances of her daughter’s death.

Outside of single-word responses to Nakamoto’s questions, Stone said nothing during the hearing.

Nakamoto accepted Stone’s plea and found her guilty of manslaughter.

The court scheduled Stone’s sentencing hearing for Feb. 11, although Tiapula said she may need additional time to complete a pre-sentencing investigation because of the sheer volume of case information to review.

However, Tiapula told Nakamoto that she intends to pursue the maximum possible sentence for Stone, 20 years imprisonment.

Stone is the first of the three to face judgment by the court. Lehano was found fit to stand trial more than a year ago, but progress in his case has been repeatedly deferred this year throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Meanwhile, Henrietta Stone’s fitness for trial remains under investigation. The results of a court-ordered mental examination of Henrietta Stone will be delivered to the court today, but a fitness hearing is yet to be scheduled.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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