Kahului man allegedly killed mother in self-defense

Kevin Vinuya Tomas

Editor’s note: Story includes graphic violence. Reader discretion advised.

New details are emerging in a Kahului murder investigation.

Keoni Vinuya Tomas, 25, appeared in court Wednesday on a second-degree murder charge.

He’s accused of killing his mother, Kimberly Vinuya, 43, at their home on Makalii Street.

According to court documents, police were called at 4:38 a.m. Monday, March 9, after neighbors reportedly heard a woman screaming and crying for help.

When officers arrived, they found Vinuya’s body in a 10′-by-10′ single room cottage behind the main house, where Tomas and Vinuya reportedly lived.

Preliminary examination found Vinuya had multiple deep lacerations to her back, face, hands and head, and an X-ray revealed the tip of a knife embedded in her skull.

Court documents say Tomas was found in the main home with blood on his shirt and two folding knives covered in blood, with one of the tips broken off.

Tomas was arrested and when questioned, told police he and his mother had gotten into an argument when his mother tried to stab him, so he took the knife and stabbed her.

According to court documents, Tomas also said his mother tried to hit him with a bat, so he took the bat and used it on her.

His bail was set at $1 million.

Meanwhile, the question remains, why was he free in the first place?

Earlier this year, Maui police arrested Tomas for the murder of Gail Otsuka, 61. On Jan. 2, officers found her body alone at her home in Kahului.

Gail Otsuka
Gail Otsuka

A close family friend told KHON2 she had been stabbed multiple times.

The friend also said that the family has not been able to get much information from Maui police.

In the case of Otsuka’s murder, police were eventually led to Tomas and found cuts on his hand.

Still, police released him as they awaited, and continue to wait for, results from DNA samples sent to a laboratory operated by the Honolulu Police Department.

KHON2 asked Maui prosecutor John Kim whether homicide cases submitted for lab testing should be given priority.

“I would hope that to be true,” said Kim, “but I don’t run the lab. I have no control over that.”

While Kim and Maui police could not comment directly on Otsuka’s murder, police did say the investigation can be difficult if a suspect does not consent to providing a sample for DNA testing.

Kim would not comment if his office will pursue a court order to compel a sample from Tomas.

An attorney who is familiar with DNA testing told KHON2 that DNA testing can also be time-consuming.

“Procedurally, number one cases that are nearer to going to trial, those will be getting the attention,” said William Harrison. “So locally, there is a backlog on DNA testing.”

Two years ago, Harrison, who is an attorney with the Innocence Project, used the results of a DNA test to free a man imprisoned for rape.

“We feel for the family. We sympathize with the situation,” said Kim, “but I have to uphold the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Hawaii.”

Kim said both documents protect the rights of victims as well as suspects.

Kim also said if the HPD lab is unable to process the DNA samples, authorities have the right to send the samples to a lab with the FBI, as well as a private lab, to get results.

HPD told KHON2 that it would neither confirm nor deny that it received DNA samples for testing from Maui police.

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