Woman sentenced to probation in child death case

  • Kuuipo Leinaala Nihipali

  • Ashley Rose Nihipali

A former Kona resident was sentenced to probation Monday after meting a plea deal with prosecutors in the 2018 murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kailua-Kona.

Kuuipo Leinaala Nihipali, who is now living in Hilo, was sentenced to five years probation for three counts of felony abuse in the presence of a child under age 14 and one count first-degree hindering prosecution in connection with the Oct. 31, 2018, death of Mazen Kaniela Nihipali-Moniz at a Kealakehe apartment complex.

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She was also ordered by Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim to serve one year in jail with credit for 361 days served and four days suspended, and must perform 200 hours of community service, among other conditions. Contact with the other four children that resided in the home at the time of Nihipali-Moniz’s death is also prohibited.

Nihipali, who now lives in Hilo after gaining supervised release in August 2020, was one of two women charged with murder in connection with the crime. Her co-defendant, Ashley Rose Nihipali was sentenced Dec. 11, 2020, to 25 years incarceration after pleading guilty to manslaughter and abuse in Nihipali-Moniz’s death.

Kuupio Nihipali changed her plea a day before the sentence was handed down against Ashley Nihipali. She pleaded guilty to three counts of abuse of a family or household member and one count of hindering prosecution.

In exchange for the pleas of both women, the state dismissed the remaining eight charges each faced, which included the offenses of second-degree murder, terroristic threatening and tampering with evidence.

The charges stemmed from the Halloween 2018 death of Nihipali-Moniz on Halloween 2018, and abusing him and his siblings for months prior at the Lailani Apartment complex in Kealakehe.

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 fire station.

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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.

The plea deal, which the judge followed, was developed after Kuuipo Nihipali agreed to testify against her co-defendant, prompting Ashley Nihipali to change her plea. The deal, which required Kuuipo Nihipali to complete a lie detector test among other conditions, kept the case from going to trial, during which the remaining victims would likely have had to testify.

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