Arrest made in assault and death of Fagatogo man
Detectives with the Criminal Investigation Division arrested Gallen Leasiolagi over the weekend in connection with the assault of a Fagatogo man who was found dead in his bedroom last month. Samoa News had reported on the incident at the time.
Leasiolagi made his initial appearance in District Court yesterday with bail set at $20,000. He’s facing charges of manslaughter and public peace disturbance.
The felony count of manslaughter is a class C felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both, while the PPD charge is a misdemeanor that carries a jail term of up to six months, a fine of $500 or both.
The defendant will appear in court today to decide whether or not he’s going to have a preliminary examination later this week. The PX hearing is for District Court Judge John Ward to determine if the government has sufficient evidence to have this matter bound over to High Court for prosecution or disposition.
According to the government’s case, on Feb. 15, 2014, the police were informed by a family member who found the victim, motionless and non-responsive. CID Detective, Amituana’i Filemoni was assigned by CID Commander Lavata’i Taase Sagapolutele to investigate the matter.
Court filings say that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) technicians conducted their preliminary examination of the body and later informed police that Patu’s vital signs “had no sign of life” and the body appeared to be stiff (process of rigor mortis). The CID Detectives observed the victim’s body had sustained “significant injuries, bruises, swelling and discoloration” on the facial and chest areas.
“Such discovery strongly suggested further investigation into the matter” as suspicion of foul play could be involved. It’s alleged that during the course of the investigation, it was revealed the victim (Patu) was allegedly beaten during a drinking session, hours before he was found dead in his home.
Court filings say two eyewitnesses saw Leasiolagi approach the victim in front of the Fashion Boat store in Fagatogo and alleged that he had started punching the victim with closed fists on the head, face, chest and stomach area.
Another witness told police that prior to the incident (where the defendant had allegedly punched Patu) he had approached Patu, who was sitting in front of the Fashion boat. It is alleged Leasiolagi asked him why he (Patu) was yelling profane and obscene language out loud in front of the Reverend’s residence
A third witness told police that he, too, saw Leasiolagi punch the victim on the head and body and afterwards, the defendant told the victim “how stupid of you to start such a loud disturbance earlier. Now the faifea’u thinks it’s us” and then Leasiolagi walked away.
The third witness said Patu started complaining immediately after the assault, saying he had pain on the right side of his head, chest and stomach. “Patu complained that he could barely breathe momentarily after receiving the punches on his head, chest and stomach area.” The third witness offered to take the victim to the hospital, but the victim refused.
Court filings say, the third witness went home and told his father about what happened and the father came down to the victim’s house and again offered to take him to the hospital for a check up, but the victim refused.
According to the government’s case, at the time the body was discovered, rigor mortis was completely set in which gave the impression that Patu had presumably been dead within a span of about five to six hours.
An autopsy was performed on Mar. 14, 2014 where the physician ruled the cause of death was blunt force traumatic injury to the head concentrated in the right temporal area where an open, depressed skull fracture was observed.