Vietnamese man allegedly murdered over a cigarette and angry words
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The defendant in the alleged murder of a Vietnamese man in Vaitogi last week told investigators that the reason why he committed the crime was because he was very pissed off with the man (victim) for the way he treated him during their yard clean up work.
He was mowing the lawn while the Vietnamese man, who was his supervisor was sitting down smoking a cigarette and playing with his phone. And when he asked for a cigarette, the Vietnamese man swore at him and refused to give him a cigarette.
The defendant, Lomitusi Luapene appeared in Court for the second time since his arrest last week for his preliminary examination (PX) yesterday morning.
When his case was called, defense attorney, Public Defender, Michael White informed the Court that after discussing the matter with his client, Luapene decided to waive his rights to a preliminary examination, and let his case be bound over to the High Court for further proceedings.
The defendant is scheduled to appear in High Court this morning for his arraignment.
Luapene, who is being held in custody without bail is charged with murder in the second degree — a class A felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years, not more than 30 years.
On Oct. 6th, 2021, the DPS Criminal Investigation Division (CID) received a call regarding a possible homicide case in the village of Vaitogi where the body of a male individual was seen lying unconscious inside an abandoned house.
Several detectives responded to the call and immediately secured the scene. They were later directed to a wooden (Samoan fale) structure without walls, concrete flooring with white wooden railing about 3 feet high surrounding it.
As officers stood at the entrance, they observed a body of a male individual (victim) lying on his back — not moving. The victim’s legs were on top of a pile of lumber while his back was on the concrete floor.
A pool of blood was observed around the victim’s head. A cut wound was observed on the left side of his neck area. Officers also observed blood splatters on the railing at the victim’s feet. EMS was immediately contacted and they arrived and transported the victim to the LBJ Medical Hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival at around 7.54p.m on Oct. 10th.
The victim suffered a deep lacerated wound from ear to ear, exposing the spinal cord. The presiding physician stated that it appeared to be a clean cut caused by a sharp object, and that the victim had been possibly dead for about 8 hours before he was pronounced dead.
Investigators started to look for witnesses who could provide information to help them with their investigation. They first interviewed the owner of the Samoan fale and the land where the body of the victim was found.
The owner of the land told investigators that the victim was a Vietnamese male known by many as Yun. Yun was the supervisor for Andrew Autele’s Landscaping Company.
The landowner told investigators that the victim cleans his yard for him on the first of every month. He further stated that the victim and his workers were working at his house at Malaeloa on Oct. 5th, 2021, and he heard that there was friction between the victim and his workers regarding their pay.
The landowner recalled that the victim mostly worked with 3 Samoan males.
Investigators interviewed another witness, a female individual. The female witness stated that earlier in the morning at around a little after 7a.m, she left the house to do White Sunday shopping for her children. At around 11a.m, she arrived home and saw the victim’s work equipment near the entrance. It was raining when she arrived, so she did not look around but carried her shopping into the house.
The female witness lives with her family at a house near the scene.
Investigators interviewed more witnesses who live near the area for the purpose of collecting more information regarding the incident.
Information gathered at the scene revealed that the victim mostly worked with male individuals known as Kelemete and Lomitusi, who live behind the Alataua Elementary School. Another male individual was identified as Keloga from the village of Amanave.
Around 11:12p.m on Oct. 6th, investigators located one of the three men usually working together with the victim at his residence and he was brought to the Leone Police Substation (LPS) for an interview.
Kelemete old investigators that on Tuesday, Oct. 5th, he did yard cleaning at a home in Malaeloa. Kelemete did not go to work on the following day (Oct. 6th).
He also stated that the victim picked up Lomitusi from their house at around 7a.m. Kelemete is married to Lomitusi’s sister.
Kelemete further told investigators that Lomitusi (defendant) and the victim were the only one who were working on their customer’s land in Vaitogi. He further stated to investigators that sometime in the afternoon, he saw Lomitusi driving the victim’s vehicle in the front of a store at Nua and Seetaga.
Kelemete also stated that Lomitusi drove to his house, parked the victim’s truck in front of the school cafeteria and ran to the house, picked up his cell phone and then left in the victim’s truck.
On the following morning, Oct. 7th, officers of the LPS observed the victim’s car in Vailoa, parked at Siaulaiga’s residence. Investigators proceeded to the residence and confirmed that the victim’s truck was there.
When questioned by investigators, a member of the Siaulaiga family confirmed that it was Lomitusi (defendant) who drove the truck there.
Around 5:26p.m on Oct. 7th, investigators received a phone called from a man who introduced himself to investigators as the father of Lomitusi Luapene, (the defendant in this matter).
The defendant’s father informed investigators that his son (defendant) is at his daughter’s house in Fagagogo.
Investigators responded to the call and later apprehended the defendant from Fogagogo and immediately transported him to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for questioning.
It was at the TPS where Lomitusi identified himself as Lomitusi Luapene.
Luapene was Mirandized and he waived his rights to an attorney and wished to make a statement regarding the matter.
Luapene stated that in the early hours of Oct. 6th around 5:25a.m, Yun picked him up from his house and went to Vaitogi. He stated that upon their arrival he prepared the lawn mowers and started them, but Yun was taking his time smoking and putting on his work clothes.
Luapene said he then started mowing the lawn and later noticed that Yun was still taking his time mowing what he called ‘the easy spot’. Luapene stated to investigators as he was mowing the lawn mower toward where Yun was, Yun put down his lawn mower and had a smoke break.
According to Luapene’s statement to investigators, there was a time when he turned off his lawn mower and went and sat down to change the trimmer rope. Luapene stated that he was mad when Yun told him that he sits around too much and wastes time and then told him that he couldn’t have a cigarette.
According to Luapene, they had a conversation and Yun wanted him to go and do another landscaping job alone at the house of a family named Taavili, however, he told Yun that he really needs someone to help him with the job because Taavili’s yard is so big and he can’t do the job by himself.
In the middle of the conversation between Luapene and Yun, Luapene then asked Yun to drop him off at one of his friend’s houses so that he could find someone to help him.
However, Yun had another plan — he told Luapene to go and pick up Keloga to help him. Luapene agreed and then went to pick up Keloga, but retuned without him as Keloga was not at home when he visited his house.
Yun was pissed off at Luapene and called him a liar. Yun believed that Keloga was at his house but Luapene didn’t want to bring him to work.
Luapene said he didn’t waste anymore time, he started his lawn mower again while Yun was still sitting down playing with his phone at the same time while he was yelling at him to hurry up with the job.
Luapene recalled a time when he turned off his lawn mover to rest and then asked Yun for a cigarette but Yun was still pissed off at him and swore at him, which triggered him and had a thought that ‘Yun is too much’. For that reason, Luapene was very mad at Yun and he wanted to do something to pay him back for how he was treating him.
Luapene then walked to the back of the house and grabbed a sharp machete and returned to the front where Yun was sitting and playing with his phone.
Luapene told investigators that he didn’t waste any more time to think twice if it was the right decision or not, he grabbed the machete with both hands, tightly gripped it and struck at Yun, aiming for his head.
After he struck Yun, he then threw the machete on the ground and went and got everything on the truck. He also stated he pushed the car backward, since it has reverse problems and then he remembered the machete.
That’s when he ran back to the house and grabbed it, and threw it in the back of the truck and sped off. He stated that it was in Auma the he parked the vehicle and threw the machete into the ocean.
ATTORNEY FOR THE VICTIM’S FAMILY
Samoa News understand that the family of the victim has retained a local attorney to assist them with the legal side of the matter and to prepare the victim’s body to return to his family in Vietnam.
Samoa News spoke with the attorney and the attorney stated that the victim’s family has no intention of filing any lawsuit against anybody. The reason for the attorney to be involved in this matter is to assist the family with everything locally, before the victim’s remains are returned to his family in Vietnam.