Bail set at $100K for man charged with attempted murder
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man alleged to have been upset with his sponsor because of issues stemming from the disbursement of a FEMA check has been arrested and charged with second degree attempted murder and first degree assault.
Vaimoe Seumau made his initial appearance in District Court yesterday morning, where presiding Judge Fiti Sunia set bail at $100,000
The government alleges that on Jan. 21, 2019, Seumau walked into a church in Pava'ia'i and told a congregation of about 10 people that he had just killed someone.
Information obtained by Samoa News notes that Seumau entered the territory sometime between 2013 and 2014, and he was sponsored by his brother-in-law's friend, Matamatafua Semaia — the victim in this case.
According to the criminal complaint, the relationship between Seumau and his sponsor was "amicable" at first. Seumau lived with Semaia's sister.
Early last year, when Tropical Cyclone Gita struck, part of the house that Seumau occupied sustained damages — particularly the portion of the home that Seumau spent money on building.
A FEMA inspection was carried out and Seumau learned afterwards, that money was available for property damage.
It is alleged that in April 2018, Semaia showed Seumau a FEMA check for $11,000 and Semaia allegedly told Seumau that the check would be returned to FEMA because there was an error in the name. Seumau allegedly told police that he accepted the explanation, but he was expecting a portion of the money to help recoup the money he spent on fixing up the damages.
Later that same month, Seumau allegedly approached his sponsor "several times" to inquire about the FEMA check, to which his sponsor responded, that he didn't know.
Fast forward to July 2018, the same month Seumau's Immigration ID was set to expire. Seumau allegedly told investigators that he wanted a portion of the FEMA money to help pay for his ID renewal because he didn't have any money to pay for it himself.
The following month, Seumau allegedly told his sponsor that he and his family wanted to return to Samoa, to which the sponsor said, it's up to them.
In September 2018, Seumau and his family relocated to Asili from Faleniu.
The following month, Seumau allegedly approached his sponsor again, to inquire about the FEMA check. Seumau was allegedly told that his sponsor's niece had departed American Samoa with the check.
In November 2018, Seumau sought help from the Immigration Office regarding his status. It was then that he learned that Semaia had terminated his sponsorship.
In December 2018, while selling fish in Faleniu, Seumau claims that Semaia "approached or confronted" him about allegations he said Seumau was making about him. The criminal complaint notes that the "confrontation ended without incident."
Then earlier this month on Jan 11, Seumau was admitted to the hospital. He was discharged more than week later but he didn't pay his bill because he had no money.
Seumau allegedly told investigators that he went home to Asili and pondered about the FEMA check and his immigration issues. His anger became "progressively worse" and according to the court affidavit, Seumau was determined to kill his sponsor and if he did it successfully, he would kill himself afterwards.
It is alleged that Seumau walked to Leone with a backpack containing a knife and a container of glyphosate herbicide. He caught a bus to Faleniu and proceeded to an open shed where his sponsor was sleeping, lying face up.
According to the criminal complaint, Seumau said he put the knife to Semaia's throat and made 2 slicing motions from left to right. However, due to the "dullness of the knife" and a "degree of reluctance", the victim sustained no injuries.
It was during the second alleged slice that Semaia woke up and "swatted" Seumau's arm away. This was when Seumau allegedly took off and fled the scene.
Seumau is alleged to have ran to a nearby church in Pava'ia'i and in front of 10 congregants, he allegedly announced that he had just killed someone and he needed a ride to the police station.
A status hearing for Seumau is set for today, to obtain more information on his immigration status. According to the Immigration Office, more time is needed for them to look into Seumau's file because he has other names ("Savelio" and "Seumalu"). The Immigration officer who was present in court did confirm that Seumau's ID expired last year.
Based on information received by the court — that Semaia had terminated his sponsorship of Seumau — Judge Sunia wanted to know the specifics on how a sponsor can do that. The law sets specific responsibilities for sponsors, Sunia said. "Can a sponsor just walk in and say 'I'm done'?" Sunia asked.
A direct answer from the Immigration officer was not provided.
If he is able to post bail, Seumau is ordered to comply with standard conditions of release. In addition, he is to surrender his passport to the government, and not leave or attempt to leave the territory. He is also ordered to remain law abiding and not make any direct or indirect contact with the victim or any of the government's witnesses.