Preacher Testifies in Brother’s Attempted Murder Trial

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  • ( l r) Defense attorneys Faualo Harry Schuster and Maureen Tuimalealiifano. Prosecutors Ann Matalasi and Leone Su’a Mailo,
    ( l r) Defense attorneys Faualo Harry Schuster and Maureen Tuimalealiifano. Prosecutors Ann Matalasi and Leone Su’a Mailo,

The preacher brother of prominent farmer Peter Tulaga testified as a prosecution witness in the trial of his little brother who is facing attempted murder for shooting his alleged lover in the face with a shotgun in mid-January, 2019 in Vailoa.

In his sworn testimony, Tulaga’s brother, Petelo Tulaga, who is training to be a preacher for the Church of Christ, said he didn’t know there was a shooting until one of the boys told him there was a commotion at his mother’s home.

Petelo said Peter is his little brother, the youngest of 10 siblings. Although he currently lives in Faleata, Petelo said he was at his home in Vailoa on the day of the shooting.

A distance of 100 metres separates his home from his mother’s where the incident is said to have taken place. His mother was in Savai’i at the time.

Petelo said he went to his mother’s home when he was alerted to the incident. His brother’s son told him something happened.

When he got to his mother’s house, Petelo said he was told of the incident but he did not see what had happened.

He asked his little brother if something happened. His little brother looked worried, he said.

“Peter told me he was leaving,” Petelo told the court.

Petelo said he carried the victim outside of the house and when he did; her teeth fell onto his arm. He said the victim’s entire lower jaw was gone.

He took the victim to a vehicle and told his siblings to get Rimoni some help. He told the court he instructed his sister to take Rimoni to the hospital.

The four-day trial for Tulaga began yesterday before Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren and a panel of five assessors – two women and three men.

State prosecutors contend that on January 15, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. the victim Fresna Rimoni went to Tulaga’s home (which belongs to the defendant’s mother) in Vailoa.

At the time, the defendant and the victim were in a relationship. An argument over suspicion of dishonesty took place.

As a result of the argument, Tulaga fired the shotgun at Rimoni with the intent to kill her, prosecutors say. The shotgun injury resulted in serious injuries to the victim’s face.

Prosecutors Ann Matalasi and Leone Su’a Mailo plan to call more than 30 witnesses including Rimoni and a number of overseas doctors will testify via video link.

A ballistics expert will also testify through video link.

Police Constable Isaac Key, who photographed the crime scene, was the first witness called to the stand. Assessors were provided with the photographs that included images of blood stained.

Key gave evidence that he photographed the house where Rimoni was allegedly shot.

Police Forensics Sketch Artist Atoa Tafuna’i, also testified on day one of the trial.

Police who responded to the crime scene, members of the defendant’s family who were there during and after the incident, doctors and nurses from Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital who tended to Rimoni after the shooting, overseas doctors, a ballistics expert and police who investigated the case are also scheduled to testify.

Evidence will be presented in various forms – pictures, sketch plans, written testimony and oral evidence

The five assessors have been instructed not to speak to anyone about the trial – not their spouses or family members, no one.

They must also refrain from reading or following any news reports about the trial.

Set to begin at 10 a.m., the trial started at 11 a.m. after Justice Tafaoimalo met in chambers with the attorneys.

Expected to last four days, the trial continues today.

Tulaga was denied bail and is being held in custody.

Defense attorneys are Faualo Tauiliili Harry Schuster and Maureen Tuimalealiifano.