Tittleman Fauatea, convicted of killing Waianae teacher Asa Yamashita

(Article from HSTA Teacher Advocate Newsletter, May 2009.)

Asa Yamashita

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

‘We mean no ill will toward you,’ victim’s husband tells murderer

Tittleman Fauatea, convicted of killing Asa Yamashita, must spend life in prison

By Ken Kobayashi


The husband of a popular schoolteacher fatally stabbed at the Ewa Town Center four years ago told the killer Tuesday he forgives him and prays that one day he will confess to God for what he did.

“We mean no ill will toward you,” Bryan Yama­shita told Tittleman Fauatea at his sentencing for the murder of Asa Yama­shita.

Both the prosecutor and defense attorney lauded the husband as a “big person” and “big man” for being able to forgive.

But Bryan Yamashita later said his faith requires forgiveness.

“If people see me as big, my God is bigger,” he said.

Circuit Judge Rom Trader imposed a mandatory life term with parole for the 29-year-old man, who has a long history of mental illness.

Asa Yamashita, 43, a Wai­anae High School teacher, was sitting on a bench eating saimin outside an Ewa Town Center store when she was stabbed in the unprovoked attack.

Witnesses said Fauatea bought a large kitchen knife at the center, unwrapped the knife, then repeatedly stabbed the woman Feb. 27, 2009.

Despite the findings of some court-appointed experts who believed Fauatea’s mental illness rendered him substantially impaired and legally insane, Trader went along with other experts who found the impairment did not rise to the level to justify an acquittal by reason of insanity.

Following the nonjury trial in March, Trader rejected the insanity defense and convicted Fauatea of murder, which carries the mandatory sentence.

“In an instant, Mr. Fauatea, you ripped (her life) away from her and subjected that family as well as the community to an absolutely horrific event that devastated their lives,” the judge said.

City Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima described the husband as a “big person” to find forgiveness, but the prosecutor said he takes the opposite view.

The state, he said, cannot forgive Fauatea for the “very heinous crime.”

He asked the judge to order that Fauatea pay restitution of about $4,700 for funeral costs and about $4,200 to the Crime Victim Compensation fund.

Trader granted the requests.

Fauatea’s lawyer Barry Soo­alo suggested that the “overwhelming evidence” pointed to an insanity acquittal and told the judge they plan to appeal.

Fauatea declined to address the court before sentencing.

After the hearing, Soo­alo said he thinks his client didn’t say anything because he doesn’t understand the proceedings and didn’t know why he was in court.

The defense lawyer also said he doesn’t think his client has any thoughts about the husband’s remarks because Fauatea is still paranoid and delusional.

“I think he goes in and out of what we understand to be reality,” Soo­alo said.

Bryan Yamashita, also a schoolteacher, who attends Grace Bible Church in Kapolei, has previously expressed that he forgives Fauatea, but said after the hearing that the sentencing gave him a chance to speak to him directly.

He said their two elementary school daughters knew the sentencing was Tuesday.

“They’re OK,” he said.

The sentencing that ends more than the four years of proceedings at the trial level brought some degree of closure, he said.

“It’s like a scar,” he said about his wife’s slaying. “It’s going to always be there, but over time it recedes.”