ARKANSAS SEEKS DEATH PENALTY IN MARSHALLESE MURDER

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By Aenet Rowa

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe, April 3) – In Arkansas, the state is seeking the death penalty for Abon Tili, a Marshall Islander, who is accused of killing a 10-year-old Marshallese girl in his care. Washington County Prosecuting Attorney John Threet informed the court at a status hearing held this afternoon.

Last week, Tili's attorney, Public Defender Leana Houston, had requested the prosecutor's office to declare whether it intended to seek the death penalty or life in prison, the only two punishment options under a capital murder conviction. She also asked that Tili be allowed to wear civilian clothes, not the prisoner jumpsuit, and without restraint.

According to the Arkansas newspaper, The Morning News, Circuit Judge William Storey also reset the case, from April 23 to July 9, to allow the defense time to prepare for the case. The original trial had been scheduled for February, but there was no Marshallese interpreter.

Storey also ruled Monday that Tili could appear in court in civilian clothes. He also must provide hair samples to be compared with hair strands found at the crime scene.

Emiti Freddy, who was a student at Bayyari Elementary School, was found dead in Tili's apartment in Springdale on the morning of October 21. Her parents in the Marshall Islands had sent her to Arkansas to live with her Aunt Mami Freddy, a former girlfriend of Tili. Emiti lived with Tili and his three-year-old son, but Freddy was not living at the home when Emiti died, Tili said he had been drinking the night before with two other males in the apartment, and he did not know what had happened to her.

According to the autopsy, she was sexually assaulted and strangled. DNA samples pointed to Tili, who then was charged with capital murder on December 8, 2006. He has remained in the Washington County Detention Center in lieu of US$100,000 bond, since the incident. He was charged first on first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

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