On October 31, 2018 6-year-old Mazen Kaniela Nihipali-Moniz was pronounced dead at 5:30 pm at the Kona Community Hospital. He had been brought to the Kailua Fire Station unconscious by an undisclosed family member before being taken to the hospital.
Police were told at the time that Mazen had suffered an "incident" at the Lailani Apartment complex before being found unconscious. After an autopsy was preformed which determined that his cause of death was a homicide after results revealed clear signs of trauma including bleeding on his liver, strangulation, and bruising.
During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that over the proceeding months, Ashley Nihipali and her partner, Ku'uipo Nihpali had been abusing the five children in their care.
"They were beaten, choked and burned with hot water," Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chase Murray III since they moved in with the couple. According to West Hawaii Today the children had been adopted by the parents of Ku'uipo before being placed into their care for undisclosed reasons.
Murray told the court that Ashley had received a phone call from the school Mazen attended alerting her that he had removed a Lego piece form a book. He said that she went too far after hearing the news and beat and choked him against a wall.
"Eventually he stopped breathing," Murray told the court. "The autopsy showed body bruising, signs of strangulation and bleeding from the liver. Mazen doesn't get to have a life. Nothing will bring him back and nothing will take back the trauma to the siblings."
As disclosed in court, the other four siblings had been directed to lie to investigators about what they had witnessed, but the children eventually disclosed the truth in interviews.
Ashley's attorney, Andrew Kennedy said, "Ashley didn't want Mazen to die. She didn't act appropriately. It was a reckless act." He then went on to explain to the court that Ashley herself had been a victim of childhood abuse and so was not equipped to properly handle the stress she was under.
Ashley pleaded guilty in September to one count of manslaughter and three counts of felony abuse of a family or household member. As a part of a plea agreement, additional charges of second-degree felony abuse, hindering prosecution, evidence tampering and terroristic threatening were dropped.
On December 11, Ashley was sentenced by 3rd Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim to 20 years on the charge of manslaughter and 5 additional years, to be served consecutively, for the abuse charges.
"This is a horrible case of abuse and torture," Kim said. "You took away everything he had and what he ever would have. He was only six years old." He described the conditions that the children had been subjected to as a "house of horrors," before saying, "I cannot and will not condone your actions."
In handing down the sentence of 25 years he said, "It is the maximum I can give. I am giving you the maximum because it is what you deserve."
Ku‘uipo is also facing charges in the case, and entered a plea agreement with prosecutors which would have seen her testify against Ashley. The day before Ashley was sentenced, she herself pleaded guilty to three counts of felony abuse of a family or household member and one count of first-degree hindering prosecution.
Ku‘uipo is currently on supervised release and is scheduled to be sentenced February 22, 2021.