Kona man pleads guilty to manslaughter

  • Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today Daniel Watai-Simeona

A 28-year-old Kailua-Kona man changed his plea on a manslaughter charge stemming from an assault Dec. 3 that left a 64-year-old Holualoa man dead.

Daniel Watai-Simeona on Tuesday pleaded guilty to manslaughter for assaulting Menry Mendoza, who succumbed to his injuries Dec. 12, 2021.


Mendoza’s son testified during a Dec. 21 preliminary hearing that on Dec. 3 he was preparing the yard for a storm at the Holualoa home he shared with his father. While securing items, he tied his dog to the trailer hitch of a truck, a 2018 Toyota Tacoma, and went to sleep.

Mendoza, not knowing the dog was tied to the truck, later left in the vehicle to drive to his workplace on Henry Street.

As Mendoza was driving, a family of three driving home to Hilo after attending the BIIF football championship game between Konawaena and Hilo high schools saw the truck while they were headed to grab a bite to eat at the Jack in the Box on Henry Street.

The driver of the vehicle carrying the family said they spotted the victim’s truck dragging something from behind and tried to get him to stop. They passed the victim on the right and got in front of the vehicle to make him stop.

The driver of the vehicle that tried to stop Mendoza said when Mendoza exited his truck, he was in shock when he realized what happened.

“Then brother man came out from nowhere yelling at the guy,” said the driver of the other vehicle, referring to Watai-Simeona. “All I heard was a crack. I turned around and saw the man (Mendoza) fall backwards and hit his head on the pavement.”

The witness’s son testified he saw the defendant throw a punch at the victim, hitting him in the jaw and sending him to the ground.

The witnesses called 911 and stayed with the victim. They testified Watai-Simeona fled the scene when police arrived.

The victim’s son said he received a call from medics informing him that his father was in an accident and they were transporting him to Kona Community Hospital. When the son saw his father at the hospital, he said he was bloodied, bruised and incoherent.

“He was able to speak but not carry on a normal conversation,” he said.

The son was informed his father had to be flown to The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu where he was put into a medically induced coma to try to relieve the swelling in his brain. After a few days of observation, the son was told his father was brain dead.

Mendoza was taken off life support and died nine days after the incident.

An autopsy was performed on the victim with the cause of death listed as blunt force trauma to the head.

The victim’s son indicated his dog survived the accident and was undergoing treatment.

Manslaughter is a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years incarceration.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 15.

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