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Hawaii man pleads guilty to killing lover and encasing body in tub

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Hawaii man pleads guilty to killing lover and encasing body in tub


A man pleaded guilty to murder Monday, about two years after his lover’s decomposing body was found encased in concrete in a bathtub in one of Hawaii’s most exclusive gated communities.

Juan Tejedor Baron, now 25, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Gary Ruby, 73. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors won’t seek a sentence of life without possibility for parole. Prosecutors will recommend a minimum term of 20 years to the Hawaii Paroling Authority, according to the plea agreement.

According to court documents, Baron killed Ruby, poured cement over this body and planned to fraudulently take ownership of his car and home in Honolulu’s Hawaii Loa Ridge neighborhood. Property records showed Ruby purchased the house in 2020 for nearly $2.2 million.

Ruby’s decomposing body was excavated by authorities in March 2022 from a standalone soaking tub, after his brother told police he hadn’t heard from Ruby in weeks. Ruby’s last email to his brother mentioned he had “met a new love interest named Juan” who was significantly younger, police said.

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Police said Baron covered the cement with coffee grounds to mask the smell.

SEE MORE: Father accused of drugging 3 girls at sleepover

U.S. Marshals and Los Angeles police arrested Baron after finding him in a crawl space at the back of a Mexico-bound bus in Anaheim, California.

Baron had long wanted to take responsibility, but Baron’s lawyers had discovered evidence of possible prosecutorial misconduct in the case, said defense attorney Kyle Dowd.

The plea agreement says Baron’s attorneys will withdraw a motion alleging that a former prosecutor on the case showed photographic evidence during presentations to community members, which could have tainted the jury pool.

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Baron is considered to have overstayed a visa, according to the plea document. If he’s granted parole, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will take custody of Baron and start removal proceedings. Baron is from Colombia, Dowd said.


Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com





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Hawaii says it’s safe to surf and swim in Lahaina’s coastal waters after wildfire

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Hawaii says it’s safe to surf and swim in Lahaina’s coastal waters after wildfire


Hawaii authorities say coastal waters off the wildfire-stricken town of Lahaina pose no significant risk to human health and it’s safe to surf and swim there.

The state Department of Health announced the decision Thursday after reviewing water sampling test results collected by groups including University of Hawaii researchers, the Surfrider Foundation and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Authorities are continuing to limit access to some coastal areas off the Maui town’s burn zone as the cleanup from the Aug. 8 wildfire continues, and recreation won’t be allowed in these places.

Officials have been telling residents and visitors to limit their exposure to waters off Lahaina ever since the deadly fire destroyed the historic town. They’ve also told people to avoid eating fish from Lahaina’s waters. The department’s announcement didn’t address the safety of eating fish and other marine species.

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Lahaina’s waters are popular with surfers, swimmers and snorkelers. Before the fire, tour companies would often take snorkelers to see coral reefs off the town. Since the fire, tours have been frequenting West Maui reefs to the north or south instead.

The department said it was particularly interested in test results for metals because of their elevated concentrations in wildfire ash and the possibility that rain and runoff could carry them into the ocean.

Measurements taken by University of Hawaii included assessments of nutrients, metals and carbonate chemistry. The Surfrider Foundation tested for metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which are a class of chemicals occurring naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline.

The state analyzed harbor sediment samples for metals, dioxins, total petroleum hydrocarbons and other contaminants.

Scientists say there has never been another instance of a large urban fire burning next to a coral reef anywhere in the world. They are using the Maui wildfire as a chance to study how chemicals and metals from burned plastics, lead paint and lithium-ion batteries might affect delicate reef ecosystems.

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Skyrocketing Maui rent shrinks housing options for wildfire survivors

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Skyrocketing Maui rent shrinks housing options for wildfire survivors


Rent control might be needed as Maui landlords continue to demand more money for limited housing to accommodate survivors of the Aug. 8 wildfires, according to officials with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement who say victims might need to consider moving off-island for a year or more.

Some 1,100 households — or 2,768 individual evacuees — were still living in 11 Maui hotels as of Friday.

The number of survivors still housed in hotels fell from the original 3,000 families — or 7,796 individuals — who were initially housed in 40 hotels.

To get survivors into longer-term housing, CNHA has helped pay to cover the difference in rent between what the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay and about $2,000 more that landlords typically want.

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“It’s not sustainable,” CNHA CEO Kuhio Lewis told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“We’re only putting a Band-Aid. Hundreds of millions of dollars are better spent building than paying these ridiculous rates for a limited time.”

Most families want to remain in West Maui to be closer to jobs and schools, which might be difficult given the limited supply of affordable housing.

Serious discussions need to happen about moving families to other islands, where rents are still high but closer to what survivors can pay, Lewis said.

“Families can afford $1,500 but rents (on Maui) are as high as $6,000, $7,000,” Lewis said.

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So far, CNHA has helped relocate six Maui families to Hawaii island and four more to Oahu but more need to consider moving, Lewis said.

There are fewer listings for vacation rentals on sites like Craigslist since the devastating fires because landlords can make more through a temporary county property tax moratorium combined with higher rental rates by renting to fire survivors, Lewis said.

“It’s a mess,” he said. “There just aren’t enough housing options on Maui.

“People have to consider moving to Oahu or another island.”

Rents skyrocket Matt Jachowski, CNHA’s director of data, technology and innovation, has been crunching housing data to compare before and after the fires.

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The disaster only exacerbated Maui’s shortage of affordable housing by destroying or leaving unlivable some 3,900 units — including several that contained multiple families.

“We lost a whole town,” Jachowski said. “You have no chance of living in West Maui without FEMA.

“You’re talking about multi-generational homes where rent was lower so you lost all of the low-income housing.”

Converting vacation rentals into longer leases of a year or more has been the focus of Gov. Josh Green, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen and the County Council to get survivors out of hotels but, Lewis said,

“We’re just paying too much for short-term rentals.”

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“Families really need to be told what their options are, ” he said. “Their options need to include temporarily moving off-island because there’s just not enough inventory that anyone can afford.”





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Looking for a bargain, Hawaii inflation-weary consumers head to thrift stores

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Looking for a bargain, Hawaii inflation-weary consumers head to thrift stores


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – As Hawaii families grapple with higher prices, a shopping strategy is gaining popularity.

Local thrift stores are seeing more customers searching for bargains.

Inflation is forcing many consumers to stretch their budgets, making thrifting an appealing option for those who don’t want to sacrifice style.

So while thrift stores like Goodwill have long been places where people donate things they don’t want or need anymore, they’ve also become popular destinations in the tough economy.

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“You can’t beat the price,” said Nora Nakamura, who says she’s been donating to and shopping at thrift stores for more than 30 years. She enjoys the hunt for bargains and vintage styles.

“It’s just like looking for treasures.”

For those who don’t have time to shop in person, e-commerce has made it easier to buy secondhand, whether it’s through a nonprofit, small business or website like Primark, Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can even find designer and high-end items at shopgoodwill.com/hawaii.

Thrifting has become so trendy, Goodwill hosts an annual fashion show “Goodwill Goes GLAM!” devoted to styling second hand finds. The next show is July 18, followed by a public sale at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.

“What was cool maybe 20 years ago is now back in style,” said Kelley Cho, Goodwill spokesperson. “Something that you would give to another friend like maybe you don’t use it anymore, but it’s not something that you will just trash because it’s still in good condition.”

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And it makes sense. More than 40% of consumers bought something used in 2023, saving as much as 35%.

And it’s not just clothing, but everything from electronics to cookware to toys.

“People that may not have been in a thrift store might be surprised to find that we have actually a really great selection of home goods,” Cho said.

For even deeper discounts, look for the “Color Tag of the Week” to get 50% off items that haven’t sold. You can also sign up for the loyalty program for a 5% discount, shop on $1.99 Mondays or sift through the Goodwill bins at the Mapunapuna outlet.

For many thrifters, money isn’t the only thing worth saving.

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“We’re giving somebody’s unwanted or unused things a second life, and somebody else is doing that, and really helping to keep unnecessarily things in the landfill,” Cho said.

Sustainability is the main mission for Harbors Vintage thrift store — which curates pre-loved local labels and hosts a monthly marketplace. Its next Harbors Market is on Saturday, April 13, from 4-8 p.m.

And while there used to be a stigma around hand-me downs, social media has made it cool to be thrifty.

“Before, it was like, Oh, you’re wearing like this designer stuff. Like it looks so cool. But now it’s like, oh, I thrifted this, or I found this for like a really good price. And it’s like, that’s kind of cool how it changed, like the perspective of people to be like, I don’t have to spend a lot of money to look cool,” said Brock Cunningham, Harbors Vintage sales associate and a long time thrifter.

The YWCA hosts a monthly pop-up thrift event called the “Dress for Success benefit sale,” which funds its employment support programs for nearly 500 women. Items are sourced from hundreds of donations it receives.

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The next sale is on Wednesday, April 17, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the second floor gym at the YWCA Laniakea, 1040 Richards St. For more information, email dfsh@ywcaoahu.org or call (808) 695-2603.

Dresses are priced at $10, while tops, shoes and bags cost $5. All bottoms — from pants to skirts — costs $1.

“It’s kind of a win win, right? Everybody’s able to get reasonable stuff. People feel good about where their donations are going, contributing to the sustainability, you know, and then everybody gets the services that they need,” said Stephanie Hamano, YWCA Director of Economic Advancement Programs.

Here are some tips for the first-time thrifter:

  • Take your time. You may have to rummage through a lot of pieces before you find something you like.
  • Check the label. Look for brand names and high-end labels. Note where the item was made.
  • Shop on discount days.
  • Visit different thrift shops.

Whether you’re budget-conscious, earth conscious or community conscious — whatever your reason — it pays to be thrifty.

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