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Murder suspect has history of assault in the court system

The main suspect in the alleged murder of a man in the village of Iliili, on Sunday morning, Arthur “Afa” Blake of Pavaia’i, has been charged with first degree murder.


The first degree murder is a class A felony, which is punishable up to the imposition of the death penalty, or punishable by imprisonment for life — and is not eligible for probation or parole until he has served a minimum of 40 years of his sentence.


The suspect was escorted yesterday by Criminal Investigation Division, (CID) Detectives to the District Court; however, given there were no criminal charges yet filed, the accused was taken back to the TCF. 


Blake has been arrested in connection with the alleged murder of Lopeti Lihua, a father of four. According to Mrs. Tupou Afu Lihua, the wife of victim, who spoke to Samoa News, her husband was killed just outside their home, behind the kitchen area, while their 7-year-old son looked on. The incident took place in the village of Iliili at around 9:30 a.m.


Samoa News was unable to attain the affidavit supporting the charges, as Blake was to be served late yesterday afternoon. It’s unknown at this time if he was served, but Assistant Attorney General Camille Philippe told Samoa News, yesterday morning, Blake will make his initial appearance in the District Court today.


Blake was arrested late on Sunday afternoon, several hours after the incident. CID detectives found Blake in an abandoned house not far from where the incident occurred.


Witnesses told Samoa News the accused struck Lihua on the head with a crowbar, which, caused devastating damage to his brain. As reported earlier, Blake in his 20s, was living with the couple. The crowbar allegedly used as the weapon was located not far from where the body was found.


The accused is not new to the court system; he's currently on probation from an assault case in 2010 where he struck another man with a machete. During the sentencing in July 2010 Blake was sentenced to serve 20 months in jail. Chief Justice Michael Kruse, who was accompanied on the bench with Chief Associate Judge Logoai Siaki and Associate Judge Fa’amausili Pomele handed down sentencing for Blake.


During sentencing, Blake noted that he was fully remorseful for what he did. The Public Defender at the time, Ruth Rich Fuatagavi pleaded with the court to place Blake on a probated sentence, given that he already served almost 18 months at the Tafuna Correctional facility. She said the defendant was well aware that the incident could have ended badly for everyone involved and while this does not excuse Blake’s actions, there were other circumstances involved.


“He (Blake) was a victim of a beating prior to this incident and that beating led to this incident,” said Fuatagavi.


Fuatagavi was referring to the incident where former Police Lieutenant Raymond Noa assaulted Blake in front of Rubbles in 2010. Noa was found guilty of second-degree assault and received a straight sentence of five years.


She further told the court the defendant needs help with life in general. She added there would and should have been many ways that help could have been available for the defendant, however he fell through the cracks and had no family support.


Fuatagavi added that she understands the probation office has many obligations but if the defendant is placed under the guidance of the probation officer, the defendant will become a productive member of society. She added the defendant should undergo an assessment with Human and Social Services as a condition of his probation.


Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop concurred with recommendations by then PD Fuatagavi.


At the time, Kruse said the court had taken into account both parties’ recommendations along with the defendant’s apology and said during the short recess that he had spoken with Chief Probation Officer Silivelio Iosefo about a similar case where the defendant in that case was on probation and working at the Vocational Rehabilitation program.


The CJ placed the defendant on five years probation under certain conditions, namely, that he must serve 20 months in jail with credit for time already served. Kruse said at the time that the court would not stay the two remaining months given the severity of the charges.


In addition Blake was to remain a law abiding citizen and undergo and successfully complete anger management classes.


Kruse also said at the time that if the defendant is referred to Voc-Rehab, he must attend and successfully complete the program to which he’s assigned. Blake was also ordered to attend any mental evaluation appointments, either with the hospital or the Department of Health.


Kruse added that given the incident where the defendant was a victim of a beating, and that alcohol was involved in that case, the court ordered the defendant not to consume alcohol or any controlled substance while on probation, nor was he to associate with those who do.


Blake was initially charged with attempted first-degree assault and public peace disturbance. However in a plea deal with the government the defendant pled guilty to second-degree assault, which was amended from attempted first-degree assault while the remaining charges were dismissed.