Murder suspect behind bars with bail of $500,000 set

Arthur “Afa” Christopher Blake, accused in the brutal murder of Lopeti Kalala Veukitau, told CID Detectives “he planned to kill Lopeti a week prior with a bush knife and … cut Lopeti into pieces, but something came up and he was unable to do it at the time,” say court affidavits, which support the call for first degree murder for Blake.

 

Lopeti, a father of four, is a Tongan National, who migrated to the territory some time ago.

 

The defendant made his initial appearance in District Court yesterday morning, with bail  set at $500,000 — one of the highest bail amounts ever set for a defendant in the territory's judicial history. The first degree murder charge is a felony which is punishable by death, or life imprisonment without parole until 40 years of the sentence have been served.

 

Prosecuting this matter is Assistant Attorney General Camille Philippe and Blake is represented by Assistant Public Defender Karen Shelley.

 

According to the government’s case, on June 23, 2013 three people reported to the Tafuna Substation that a man had been assaulted in the Village of Ili’ili and Detective Filemoni Amituana’i was assigned to investigate.

 

“At the scene, officers discovered the body of a man identified as Lopeti Veukitau, who was lying in a large pool of blood.” The lead investigator observed the injuries to Lopeti’s head, including a large gash and a puncture wound.

 

Tupou Lihau, the deceased’s wife, told police she was home when her seven year old son came running into the house covered with blood, yelling that Afa was hitting Lopeti with a crowbar and her husband was already dead. Ms. Lihau ran outside to find her husband lying face down and motionless, while Afa took off on foot.

 

Court filings say that in the course of the investigation the defendant was located near an abandoned house not far from the scene of the crime. “Defendant immediately told officers he knew officers were there to get him because of what happened earlier.” CID Detectives noted that defendant’s clothes had blood stains all over them.

 

Blake told CID Detectives during questioning, that Lopeti woke him up early that morning around 7:30a.m. asking him to fetch tapioca from the plantation for lunch. Court filings say, defendant was very upset with Lopeti for waking him when he was tired, and asking him to do chores.

 

“Defendant said he asked Lopeti for a knife to get the tapioca, but defendant said the real reason he asked for the knife was to use it to cut up Lopeti.”

 

According to the government’s case, the defendant noted that instead of a bush knife, Lopeti gave him a butcher knife and he figured that he could not kill Lopeti with a butcher knife because it was too small; “so, he went for the crowbar near the [coconut] husk[s] with the intention of killing Lopeti.”

 

“Defendant said once he grabbed the crowbar, he walked back to where Lopeti was bending down and swung the crowbar in a vertical motion, aiming at Lopeti’s head.”

 

Blake further told police the first blow landed on Lopeti’s head, then the victim fell to ground grasping for air and that when Blake struck him again on the left side of his body three or four times. “Defendant said he realized Lopeti was still alive, he decided to ‘finish Lopeti off by hitting him further on the head’.” According to the government’s case, the defendant repeatedly struck Lopeti on the head, about nine or ten times.

 

“Defendant said he had been very upset and angry with Lopeti for treating him 'like a slave' and making him do chores outside, while no one else had to. Defendant said he planned to kill Lopeti a week earlier with a bush knife and cut Lopeti into pieces but something came up and he was unable to do it at that time,” say court filings.

 

CID Detectives recovered the crowbar, which had blood stains, that was allegedly used in the incident. Defendant is schedule to appear in court this Thursday for his preliminary examination, to determine if the matter will be bound over to High Court.

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