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By Craig DeSilva

HONOLULU, Hawai'i (February 28, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---A man serving a life sentence for the murder of a cabinet minister in Samoa was also charged in Honolulu in 1989 for the hit-and-run death of a teen-age boy.

Eletise Vitale, 36, is serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu last July.

Eletise's father, former Women's Affairs Minister Leafa Vitale, and former Communications Minister Toi Aukuso are also charged with plotting the murder, but have pleaded not guilty. Both men are currently on trial in the High Court of Apia.

According to the indictment from the Honolulu Prosecutor's office obtained by Pacific Islands Report, Eletise, who was 25 years old at the time, struck16-year-old Benjamin Whitfield, Jr. on his bicycle the evening of November 26, 1989 on the mauka (mountain) side of Farrington Highway in Waianae on the island of Oahu.

At the time of the accident, Eletise went by the name of Alatise Teo.

Eletise fled the scene and wasn't arrested by Honolulu police until the next day.

He was charged with failing to render aide, negative homicide in the first degree, driving under the influence (DUI), and driving with no insurance. The DUI and no insurance charges were later dropped.

According to the indictment, Eletise didn't make any statement to police before posting $6,000 bail.

A bench warrant was issued for his arrest on March 6, 1991 and then again in April 26 that same year.

He is believed to have fled the state for the U.S. mainland, where he obtained several aliases.

According to the city Prosecutor's office, the case has been put on detainer, meaning that prosecutors could go after Eletise in Samoa if need be. However, it is unlikely that Eletise will be released from a prison on Savai'i Island, where he is serving his sentence.

He was originally sentenced to death, but later commuted to life imprisonment by Head of State Malietoa Tanumafili II.

In the 1980s, Eletise and his family moved from Samoa to Hawai'i, where he and his father ran a successful roofing business. Some of Eletise's family members, including his wife, still live in Hawai'i.

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