HILO, Hawai'i — Daysha moved out of the 'Ainaloa Estates house she had shared with Jeffrey Santos Jr. in stages in August 2006, sometimes sleeping at her grandparents' house, other times staying with other family or friends. She never announced to her family that she was leaving her abusive boyfriend, but everyone figured it out.
On Aug. 30 Daysha wrote a letter to Jeffrey telling him she would always love him, but she had to leave him. "No more abuse crying tears screaming voices and swearing till we tear our hearts out," she wrote. "We need this and you know it!
"Ya know I loved you, I gave you my all. It's just that I've got to think of Day'Rey now and not myself. ... I just want to be happy and live my life. I'm tired of being trapped and held back from my future. I don't need a man.
"No one can replace you, and I need some time to find myself again. I am not leaving you because of another guy, and I know you think that, but you've always thought that the entire time I've been with you."
Her car was stuffed with her belongings, and she would sometimes stop by the 'Ainaloa house to pick up more of her things, or to pick up or drop off their son after Jeffrey moved to Hawaiian Beaches. When she did, she would try to take someone with her, because the scenes with Jeffrey were often ugly.
Daysha had struck up a correspondence with a boy she knew from her time years before in intermediate school on Kaua'i, and Jeffrey had found letters and MySpace messages the two had exchanged, which added to the tension.
Daysha's sister, Breeanna Aiona-Aka, later described for police how she and Daysha went to 'Ainaloa to get the baby in September, and Jeffrey began to rant when they arrived, calling Daysha foul names and telling her she would not be able to keep their 2-year-old baby boy, Day'Rey.
Breeanna, who was 14 at the time, grabbed Day'Rey and put him in the car before going back inside. She warned Jeffrey not to hit Daysha, and led Daysha out of the house. As they walked down the stairs, Jeffrey shoved Daysha, and Breeanna inserted herself between them.
Jeffrey said he "deserved" Day'Rey, and told Daysha she would never see Day'Rey again. He followed them to the car, saying he needed Day'Rey, and he could not live without Day'Rey, according to the police report. As they reversed the car to leave, Jeffrey began pounding on the car windows and screaming, Breeanna told police.
Daysha detailed more problems when she filed for a restraining order against Jeffrey in late September.
Sometimes Jeffrey would pick up Day'Rey in the afternoon to spend time with him, and return him home the next morning. On Sept. 27 Jeffrey came over to Daysha's grandparents house at 6 a.m. to drop the baby off, and Daysha had three friends sleeping over.
Jeffrey stormed into the house, kicked a couch and yelled "Faggots!" He collected all the slippers outside Daysha's door and left with the footwear, burning rubber and screeching his tires down the concrete driveway.
Jeffrey called Daysha's cell phone more than 25 times that day, and "threatened me that he was going to 'bash' my head and the haole boy's heads together," Daysha wrote in her request for a restraining order.
She proposed in the court filing that Day'Rey live with her "with possible visits with Jeffrey," but she wanted Jeffrey to attend anger management and parenting classes.
Life was looking up, for a while
For all of her problems with Jeffrey, the rest of Daysha's life began to fall into place after she split from him and moved in with her grandparents.
"That short time she was with us, it was like a flower that bloomed," said Daysha's grandmother, Bev Akimseu. "She was so happy, she could go out with her friends. ... It was like a load lifted off of her; she had her life back, and her son. She'd come home even on her lunch breaks to spend time with her son.
"She was just a loving mother, and just really happy that she was finally rid of him," Bev said.
Daysha had been promoted to liquor manager at Safeway, and she worked longer hours, but seemed happy with what she was doing. She would sneak up behind her two younger sisters when they shopped at Safeway and ambush them, whacking them with her black notebook and teasing them. "What, you cannot say 'Hi?' "
Her relationship with her old friend from intermediate school on Kaua'i, once confined to MySpace messages and letters, was developing into a serious romance. He was now a soldier, and returned to Kaua'i in late August on leave after serving a tour of duty in Iraq.
Daysha wanted to see him, and recruited her mother, Donna Weber, to travel to Kaua'i with Daysha so she could meet with him for the first time since they had been in school together.
In September, she met him again in Honolulu, and they stayed at Donna's place on O'ahu for Daysha's 21st birthday. He fussed over her, ordered for her, and "just did everything for her," Donna recalled.
He also gave her a ring, which Daysha told her sisters was a "promise ring." Daysha's sister, Ashton Aiona-Aka, saw the effect the new relationship was having on Daysha, and asked about it. "If you're happier and you smile and you laugh and you talk with him, then why aren't you with him?" Ashton asked her sister.
"She said that she just didn't want to take the baby away, and the baby needed the dad in his life," Ashton said.
Ashton and Breeanna, along with their brother, Cody, continued to go riding ATVs with Jeffrey, but the experience wasn't as pleasant as it used to be.
On one outing in October that was detailed in police reports, Jeffrey and one of Jeffrey's sisters took the three to the isolated, overgrown quarry site in the forest where they rode ATVs. Jeffrey and the sister sat on Jeffrey's tailgate talking about how they hated Daysha, calling her an unfit mother.
Jeffrey talked about "how he would like to see someone get killed over there because when someone screams, no one can hear," according to statements Cody, Ashton and Breeanna made to police. That was the last time Daysha's brother and sisters went riding with Jeffrey.
In mid-October Jeffrey helped the Aiona-Aka clan (including her father, Stoney) pack up and move from Hawaiian Paradise Park to the 'Ainaloa Estates subdivision, and during the move remarked that he wanted to "hurt" Daysha because of the restraining order, according to the police report. Jeffrey said Daysha had taken his son away from him.
Daysha and Jeffrey appeared in Family Court on Oct. 10 in connection with the restraining order, and Daysha told the judge Jeffrey had warned her that if she ever left him, "he would kill her if she was with someone else."
Jeffrey replied that Daysha "is making up things, she said her boyfriend would come back from the Army in eight months and would kill him." Jeffrey asked the judge for visitation rights with his son, but the judge said that wouldn't be allowed until after a hearing on the evidence in the case in November.
Still, Daysha and Jeffrey had contact outside court, and Jeffrey later told police Daysha dropped the baby off with him six or seven times after that hearing.
Daysha's older sister, Cassie Kamai, wasn't surprised Daysha ignored her own no-contact restraining order and took Day'Rey to Jeffrey. "She wanted him to see the baby," Cassie said.
When Daysha went to a family birthday party on Oct. 14, she told Breeanna and other family members she had just had a big fight with Jeffrey the day before.
Jeffrey called Daysha while she was still at the family party, and Daysha left the call on speaker phone so Breeanna could overhear what was said. Jeffrey told Daysha he still loved her, and Daysha began to cry. Daysha said Jeffrey had hurt her with the "tone" he used. Jeffrey said he had been stoned, and did not remember what he did.
Both of them were telling each other they were sorry, Breeanna told police.
Everything changed Nov. 1
Daysha's last night was Halloween. She took Day'Rey out trick-or-treating in her Waiakea neighborhood, and then got ready for her own night out with a group of close friends from work.
She planned to drop Day'Rey with Jeffrey in Hawaiian Beaches, and before she drove to Puna she asked Cassie to take Daysha's party outfit to Cassie's house. Jeffrey would still rummage through Daysha's car and belongings when he saw her, and Daysha apparently didn't want Jeffrey to see the outfit she planned to wear.
A friend later told police that when Daysha returned from Hawaiian Beaches, she looked as if she had been crying. If she had been, her mood quickly improved, and when the friends gathered at Cassie's house, they were laughing and ready for a night out
"The last thing I remember telling her was 'Turn off the light, you guys are too loud, be quiet,' because it was late," Cassie said. "It was like 11 at night and my kids were sleeping."
The party ended up at a pavilion at Richardson Ocean Park, and Daysha called her new boyfriend, the soldier. She told him she was drunk and having fun, according to police reports. Her Safeway friends sometimes teased her about her long-distance romance, but Daysha told some of them she planned to marry her soldier and move to the Mainland.
A girlfriend drove Daysha home to her grandparents' house in Waiakea Uka at about 2 a.m., and slept over. Since Daysha didn't have to work the next morning, she woke up late, and posted some messages on family and friends' MySpace pages.
Shortly after lunch on Nov. 1, she told her grandfather, Tommy Akimseu, she was going pick up her toddler son from Jeffrey, and drove off.
The first sign something was wrong was when Jeffrey called to say he was headed to Hilo to drop off the boy. Jeffrey said Daysha never showed up to retrieve Day'Rey, and he knew nothing about her whereabouts.
Jeffrey and the baby arrived at the grandparents' house in Jeffrey's black Nissan pickup truck, and Daysha's puzzled grandfather, Tommy Akimseu, collected Day'Rey, the baby's car seat and a container of milk from Jeffrey before he left.
Daysha also failed to show up at the Hilo Wal-Mart to pick up Cassie when her shift ended at about 4 p.m., leaving the annoyed Cassie to find her own way home.
Tommy tried calling Daysha, and heard her pink Razr cell phone ringing in her bedroom. That deepened the mystery: Daysha's family knew she left her cell phone behind when she went to meet Jeffrey because he had smashed a number of her phones during the couple's arguments.
The family grew worried, and police were called shortly before 7 p.m. to report Daysha missing.
Jeffrey called the house twice that evening asking for Daysha, insisting he hadn't seen her that day. He explained he took their son to Kapoho for a swim, and said Daysha was supposed to come get the baby there. She never showed, he said.
Cassie and a friend of Daysha's drove to Kapoho to hunt for Daysha, and ended up looking for her in Puna and in Hilo until 4 a.m. Other friends of Daysha joined in the search.
At about 10 p.m. Daysha's grandmother, Bev, finally called Jeffrey, who was drinking beer and smoking cigarettes at a friend's house in Hilo. She asked him to come over to answer some questions. He agreed, and "he sat with my husband and I out in our patio for about an hour, very calm," Bev recalled.
"I thought maybe he really didn't see her today. I wanted to see if he had scratches or anything, but nothing. And he was in no rush to leave," she said.
Jeffrey suggested the searchers check the airport, and mentioned Daysha and he were scheduled to go to court the following day for a hearing on a Family Court restraining order Daysha had filed against him. Jeffrey said Daysha told him she did not plan to show up for that hearing.
At about 11:30 p.m. the police returned to Bev and Tommy's house, and invited Jeffrey to drive his truck back to the police station to answer some questions. Jeffrey agreed.
Dark-eyed and unshaven, Jeffrey sat at the bare table in a chilly police interview room about an hour later and outlined his activities that day. Then he launched into a seemingly random series of complaints about Daysha.
He described a car accident years before, which he said was Daysha's fault, and claimed Daysha would punch herself in the stomach when she was pregnant.
She had "issues," he said. He said Daysha had showed him the dog tags belonging to her new boyfriend, who was in the U.S. Army. He said Daysha, who was smaller than Jeffrey, was actually the aggressor in their frequent fights.
"This last time, she picked a fight again, it was her birthday, she made 21 and I guess she wanted to meet up with this old boyfriend or whatever, and she beat me up," Jeffrey told the detective. "If my son could talk, he would tell you. I was practically running away from her, she was punching me in the back of my head, and then the cops came."
Jeffrey acknowledged the restraining order requiring that he stay away from Daysha and Day'Rey, but said Daysha still brought their son around for him to baby-sit. "I'd do anything for her," he said.
Jeffrey also claimed Daysha had a calculated plan to get rid of him.
"She was trying to put me away because she didn't want me," Jeffrey said. "This guy talking to her, talking about buying houses, so she's all caught up with what he's saying, his money, I guess. She don't care about me, she don't. That's her plan, I guess, lock me up and put me away."
Finally, police Detective Robert Hatton steered Jeffrey back to the problem at hand. "If she's trying to lock you up," he asked Jeffrey, "then where is she?"