Maui News

Arrests made in connection with theft that preceded deadly crash involving MPD employee

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By Wendy Osher

Maui Police Department press conference. VC: Wendy Osher (3.31.22)

Maui police arrested two suspects in connection with a theft, that preceded a deadly crash which claimed the life of the Chief’s Executive Secretary Terry Jones last month.

The motor vehicle collision occurred on Feb. 24, 2022, on the Kula Highway at the intersection of Haleakalā Highway.

A preliminary investigation revealed that while negotiating a right turn onto Haleakalā Highway, Jones lost control of the vehicle she was driving, and collided into a tree. Prior to the collision, she was reportedly pursuing an individual responsible for stealing her purse, police said.

Lead detective, John Surina, said, multiple checks were conducted in the Upcountry area for surveillance video and evidence, which might lead to the possible suspects. “These checks continued in the days following the crash during which time, assistance was received from concerned members of the community to help with the development of a timeline of events, and provided locations where evidence was found.”

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According to Detective Surina, a suspect named Robert Nelson was identified as a result of “continued assistance of community members, vigilant police work using technology, and additional investigative efforts by police personnel.”

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On March 30 at approximately 2:30 p.m., Nelson was witnessed breaking into parked cars within a parking lot in Makawao, according to department officials. Police say members of the Crime Reduction Unit arrested Nelson as he attempted to unsuccessfully flee the area.

“Following the arrest, and as the investigation proceeded, Mr. Nelson confessed to his involvement with breaking into Mrs. Terry Jones’ vehicle, and the theft of her purse,” said Detective Surina. “He provided investigators with verifiable details of the break-in that tend to confirm his specific involvement in the crime.”

Police confirmed that they have had prior run-ins with Nelson and he does have a record with the department, however details were not immediately available. Police say current charges for Nelson include: first degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, and four additional first degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle cases.

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MPD Assistant Chief of Investigative Services, Randy Esperanza thanked his colleagues and members of the community who came forward with what he called “vital bits of information that will be crucial in the prosecution of this individual.”

“At first, we had little to go on, but I credit the tenacity and perseverance of our Crime Reduction Unit and Criminal Investigation Division, and the awesome teamwork they displayed in pursuing and apprehending this individual,” said Esperanza.

AC Esperanza said a second individual who was allegedly involved in the case, was apprehended on Thursday afternoon, March 31. “We believe that the second suspect involved in this investigation was with the primary suspect, Mr. Nelson, during the time of the break-in,” said Detective Surina. He noted that the theft occurred on Kula Highway, approximately 100 yards north of Ōmaʻopio Road on the makai or west side of the road.

Stacy and Calin Yagi speak at a press conference on Thursday, March 31, 2022. PC: Wendy Osher

Terry’s children, Stacy and Calin Yagi spoke at a press conference, hosted by Maui police.

“We would like to thank the department for their ongoing efforts to find the people involved in our mom’s accident. We are so proud, and not for a moment did we ever doubt that we would get justice. There isn’t a big enough word to say how grateful we are, ” said Stacy Yagi.

A celebration of life was held over the weekend for Jones.

“This is a partnership. We need to continue to be here for one another, and support Stacy and Calin as well as all in our community,” said Chief John Pelletier.

Police say they will be coordinating with the prosecutors office for appropriate charges.

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