Family, community shattered as Sina Solomona's murderer is sentenced

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 13:10 31/07/2014
 Sina Nerisa Solomona
SINA SOLOMONA: Trusted her killer like a brother.

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The murder of an Ashburton solo mother divided a family, divided a community and left behind a child who'll never know her mother.

Bronson Kelekolio hung his head as details of his knife and sex attack on Sina Nerisa Solomona, 22, were read in Christchurch's High Court at his sentencing for murder today.

Justice Graham Panckhurst imposed life imprisonment with a non-parole term of 14-and-a-half years on Kelekolio - who was only 15 at the time of the killing - and lifted the interim suppression order on his name.

Read the judge's full sentencing remarks here.

Kelekolio, now aged 17, was said to have been trusted "like a brother" by the murder victim Sina Nerisa Solomona and her twin sister and family.

DAUGHTER STILL ASKS 'WHERE'S MUM?'

Retired Detective Senior Sergeant John Rae, who led the murder inquiry, said outside court the Ashburton community would feel "a lot better" now the matter was resolved.

Solomona's family had been ''in limbo'' since her murder and it had taken a ''long time'' to reach this point.

''It's good now that they can actually move on. It will still be hard. She'll be missed every day. The wee girl will miss her mother every day, and you can't replace that,'' Rae said.

Solomona's two-year-old daughter would be ''very well looked after''.

''But it's still, 'Where's mum?','' Rae said.

''These people who commit murder are the greatest thieves of all.''

Kelekolio's lawyer James Rapley said it was ''too early'' to say if his client would appeal his conviction and sentence. 

''I'll just have to talk to Mr Kelekolio about that,'' Rapley said.

The killing was upsetting ''for both families''.

''It's very difficult ... to know their son's been sentenced to murder,'' he said of Kelekolio's family.

The life term with a 14 and a half years non-parole period was ''expected''.

Kelekolio's father, Tommy said as he left court, ''I don't want to talk about it right now''.

Solomona's mother left court in silence, clutching a supporter.

Her brother, Richard Ioapo, said hearing the details of her brutal killing was "shattering".

KILLING DIVIDED COMMUNITY

Solomona's killing had divided not only her family, but Ashburton's Pacific Island community, Rae said.

Some had taken sides, and felt ''very uncomfortable with the other side.

''You'd expect that to happen.''

Solomona's mother and Kelekolio's father were in a de facto relationship at the time of the killing.

They split when Bronson was charged.

''It would be totally untenable for him to remain in the house when his step-daughter had been murdered by his son,'' Rae said. Rae, who retired in May, said the murder was ''among the worst'' he had seen in his 39-year police career.

Solomona's injuries were ''horrific''.

''You don't get immune to it,'' he said.

The pointed knife broke into three pieces, yet Kelekolio continued with the attack using a second knife.

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It was Rae's last murder inquiry as officer in charge.

''I'm pleased to see it finished.''

KELELOLIO MAINTAINS INNOCENCE

Kelekolio has gone to prison maintaining his innocence.

He blamed another local man for the killing and said he had arrived at the house and found the killer still present. He said the man had forced him to wrap two bloody knives in his own shirt. They were found by police hidden beneath a vehicle on his property.

Kelekolio's DNA was found in bloody fingerprints on her thighs and genitals, and police photographed his bloody hands and clothing on the night. The investigation ruled out any involvement of the other man.

Solomona was attacked after returning from work late at night, when Kelekolio knew she would be home alone. He had travelled in the same car, stayed drinking briefly at his own home, and then went out again. He at first claimed to have found her body.

She was found with 14 stab wounds and as many cutting wounds including a wound to her throat. The wounds had been inflicted by a sharp knife and a serrated knife from her kitchen. It was clear to investigators that her underclothing had been disturbed and there were bloody fingerprints on that area of her body.

Kelekolio pleaded guilty to the charges of murder and sexual violation by digital penetration, for the early morning attack on December 15, 2012.

Justice Panckhurst told Kelekolio: "The only motivation I can see for what you did is a sexual one."

He said he hoped Kelekolio had listened to the victim impact statements in court.

He said he had to consider age and immaturity as part of the sentencing. He reduced the non-parole term because of these factors.

Psychological reports said there was no mental health history or impairment, but he had repeatedly come to the notice of the police. He had significant learning difficulties, and was lacking in judgment, self-discipline, and the ability to think straight. There was evidence of a depressive state that set in while he was in a secure facility following his arrest.

Two family victim impact statements were read in court.

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS

The mother of Sina Solomona, Anuella Solomona, said she wished her husband was still alive so that they could talk and cry together. She said Kelekolio had "always changed his story".

She said she now got angry and cried because she felt so lost. "I can feel the anger in my kids."

Miss Solomona's twin sister, Loretta, said the offending had left a four-year-old girl without her mother at her side. "I know Sina would have been the best auntie in the world to my child."

She said in her statement: "It is hard to talk to a four-year-old girl who is asking where her mother is, and what her mother was like."

Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae said there had been late guilty pleas. This meant there was little remorse that could be identified. A psychologist's report for the court said he continued to deny the offending.

He said a sentence at the higher end of the range previously identified by the judge because the youth's "lack of candour" meant the true motivations behind the offending were unknown.

Rapley said the youth was entitled to have his age taken into account. He had struggled at school where his intellectual functioning and abilities had been low.

He had been suspended for disobedience and misconduct at school. "From a young age he was drinking alcohol to excess and smoking cannabis."

Justice Panckhurst said there could be no reduction for remorse indicated by his guilty pleas, because of his present state of denial - "a product I suspect of the enormity of what you did".

- The Press

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