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Friday, March 11, 2016

The Daniel DeJarnette Murder Case

     In 2003, 50-year-old homicide detective Daniel DeJarnette, after 21 years on the force, retired. He and his wife Yu Kue moved to the town of Ka'u on the southern tip of Hawaii's Big Island. During his last ten years on the force, Detective DeJarnette had been a member of the Van Nuys Division's robbery-homicide unit's rape section. During that period, DeJarnette investigated a series of high-profile homicide cases involving sexual attacks.

     By 2006, the retired detective's marriage had fallen apart. His wife Yu Kue told her co-workers at a grocery store in the town of Kona that she wanted to leave him but he wouldn't let her go. They fought all the time, and he was physically abusive.

     On November 12, 2006, officers with the Hawaii County Police responded to the DeJarnette home after Daniel called 911 to report that his wife had fallen off a lava embankment while hanging out laundry to dry. The officers found the 56-year-old wife lying dead twenty feet from the house with two gaping head wounds. The officers immediately arrested DeJarnette on suspicion of homicide.

     According to the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, Yu Kue DeJarnette had died from blunt force trauma to the head. Notwithstanding the presence of paint chips in her hair from the suspected murder weapon--a stand for a car jack--and scrapes on her body suggesting that she had been dragged over the lava to where the police had found her body, the forensic pathologist ruled her manner of death as "undetermined." As a result of this postmortem finding, Daniel DeJarnette was released from custody due to lack of evidence.

     In January 2012, more than five years after Yu Kue's suspicious death, Hawaii County Deputy Prosecutor Linda Walton re-opened the case. Employing modernized forensic science, a DNA analyst identified traces of the victims's blood on the jack stand. Another crime lab expert connected the paint chips in the victim's head hair to the murder weapon. Forensic scientists also determined that someone had used a bleaching agent in an effort to clean up Yu Kue's blood in the couple's bathroom and other parts of the DeJarnette house.

     On May 14, 2012, a grand jury indicted Daniel DeJarnette of second-degree murder. Police officers arrested the 59-year-old at his Big Island home. If convicted as charged, the former LAPD detective faced a maximum sentence of life in prison. A judge set his bail at $300,000.

     Ten months after his arrest, DeJarnette confessed to killing his wife. They had been fighting, she slapped him, and he struck her in the head with the jack stand. He dragged her body from the bathroom across the lava field to the embankment where the police had found her. Just before he killed Yu Kue, Daniel had purchased a $300,000 insurance policy on her life.

     On March 26, 2013, Daniel DeJarnette pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter while under extreme emotional stress. Two months later, a judge imposed the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.  

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