A man is facing second-degree murder charge in relation to the death of a Tongan man in Hawai’i.
46-year-old Sione Telua Koloi died in Lanai Community Hospital on May 11 as a result of his injuries. His body was laid to rest on June 2.
Travis Morita, 35, was charged with murder following an autopsy of Koloi. Morita was being held at the Wailuku Police Station.
Police recently increased Morita’s charge from manslaughter to second-degree murder after evidences suggested he repeatedly punched Koloi in the face before he died of his injuries, Assistant Chief John Jakubczak was quoted by The Maui News as saying.
The incident occurred at 10:37 p.m. Friday when police responded to a report of a man injured during a fight at the intersection of Fraser Avenue and Kaumalapau Highway in Lanai City, Jakubczak said.
Police found Koloi lying on the ground on his right side with injuries to his head and face, with his girlfriend Kendra-Leah Sabin by his side.
Sabin remembered Koloi as a loving father, coach and friend. She said he worked as a journeyman finish carpenter for the past eight years on Lanai and in Lahaina.
The couple were in the process of breaking down their old home and planning to rebuild, Sabin said. They also were planning to look after their daughter’s child to help her finish college in two more years.
“We had so much plans,” she said.
Born and raised in American Samoa, Koloi moved to Maui in 1990. Four years later, he moved to Lanai and eventually met Sabin in 1996.
“He was very involved with the community,” Sabin said. “A lot of people loved him here and in Lahaina.”
Sabin said Koloi helped coach Pop Warner football and Menehune basketball teams in both Lanai and Lahaina. She said he was part of the crew working on renovations of the Lodge at Koele resort and helped build Lanai’s movie theater.
“All his bosses and co-workers had nothing but good things to say about him,”Sabin said. “Every day he comes to work smiling and happy. Even the cooks said when he comes by to pick up lunch, he’s always offering to help.”
Tongan relatives paid tributes to Koloi on social media.