HILO, Hawai'i — After hours of evasive answers, lies and long silences, Jeffrey Santos Jr. finally admitted what he had done to his ex-girlfriend and partner of six years, Daysha Aiona-Aka. His confession emerged in mumbled sentences, with Jeffrey usually staring off to the right at something out of view of the camera as he talked.
Jeffrey gave permission for police to search his truck, which had a smudge that looked a lot like blood six inches from the mirror on the driver's side door.
He also allowed police to search his home, where officers found wet clothes thrown on the bathroom floor. Particularly alarming was a white cotton sock discarded near the shower with a stain on it near the ankle that also looked like blood.
In the police interview room in Hilo, Jeffrey told Detective Robert Hatton he wished he could start over with Daysha. He said he tried to make her happy, but she wasn't happy with him.
When pressed to tell what really happened, Jeffrey finally admitted in a miserable-sounding voice that if he told them the truth, he would be "lock up forever." Skinny, unshaven and handcuffed, hunched over in a baggy white T-shirt, Jeffrey told them anyway.
Daysha met Jeffrey on Quarry Road off Stainback Highway, a dirt track leading to the overgrown old pit where Jeffrey frequently went to ride dirt bikes and ATVs with Daysha's younger brother and sisters.
Daysha knew the spot because she had been there before with Jeffrey on family off-road outings. Sometimes Jeffrey would fire his .22-caliber revolver at targets in the quarry. No one was bothered by the shooting in such an isolated area.
After six years in the violent relationship with Jeffrey, Daysha had finally split with him and obtained a no-contact restraining order. Despite the order, Daysha regularly brought their 2-year-old son, Day'Rey, to him. She told members of her family she wanted the boy to know his father.
On Nov. 1, 2006, Daysha had come to fetch Day'Rey, who had stayed with his dad overnight while Daysha went out to a Halloween party. Jeffrey told the detective he was hoping to spend the whole afternoon with Day'Rey and Daysha.
Jeffrey, Daysha and Day'Rey rode once around the track, and then Jeffrey went for a second spin with just Day'Rey, Jeffrey told police.
He rode up to where Daysha was waiting by her Mazda Protege, which was parked next to Jeffrey's truck at the top of the rough road leading down into the old quarry pit. Jeffrey and Daysha walked on the road for a short distance, with Daysha holding Day'Rey.
Daysha told Jeffrey she wasn't planning to stay for the day; she had come to pick up the baby.
Jeffrey told her it was hard for him to live without her; she replied that she was happy with her new boyfriend. She said the boyfriend would be coming back from the Mainland soon, and asked if Jeffrey wanted to meet him. Jeffrey got mad, and began kicking his truck. Daysha told Jeffrey she wanted to go, and began walking to her car, holding Day'Rey's hand.
Jeffrey told the detective, "I told her that I love her, and she told me she made up her mind, she was going to give me a chance, but she can't because she knows it's not going to work, grabbed my son, walking away, and I told her 'Don't walk away from me,' and she keep walking, and walking."
Jeffrey followed and grabbed Daysha's arm. She put Day'Rey down, and was trying to pull away from Jeffrey. "She tripped because she get high heels, she tripped, fall down, and started to cry," Jeffrey told the detective. "She was leaving for just dig out, cold." In a second statement made to police later, Jeffrey also said Daysha hit her head when she fell.
Jeffrey said he figured she would call the cops and turn him in, that she would say he beat her up.
"Everything was just, she made me feel like nothing," he said.
There was a long pause in the police interview room, with the dark-eyed Jeffrey hunched over in his chair, rubbing his fingers together and looking away from the detective.
Then, Jeffrey said, he leaned over to help Daysha up, but instead pulled the .22-caliber Taurus revolver from where he had stuck it in his belt at the small of his back, and shot Daysha once in the back of the head.
'I couldn't picture her with nobody else but me'
The detective asked Jeffrey why he was carrying the pistol in his belt that day. Jeffrey replied that he "couldn't picture her with nobody else but me, and seemed like she had her mind made up ... " His voice dropped to a mumble, and then Hatton asked him to speak up.
"I couldn't picture her with nobody else but me, and I couldn't handle," Jeffrey said, speaking more clearly.
He outlined his next steps for police. He said he pulled Daysha's body off the road, and then backed up his truck and loaded her onto the tailgate. He drove the truck to Daysha's car, put the body in the back seat of Daysha's Protege, and carried Day'Rey to the front seat before driving the Protege to a more remote area on a side road off Quarry Road.
The detective asked Jeffrey how his son reacted.
"When I put him in the car, put him in the passenger side, I was driving her down, he was looking at me and smiling," Jeffrey said. "Usually, I figured he'd be freaking out and screaming."
Jeffrey collected Day'Rey and walked back to his truck, driving home to Hawaiian Beaches to shower and wash the boy before dropping Day'Rey at the grandparents' house in Waiakea Uka.
Once there, Jeffrey told Daysha's surprised grandfather that he hadn't seen Daysha that day, that she never showed up as planned to pick up their son.
After dropping off the boy with his grandfather, Jeffrey returned to Daysha's car in the Pana'ewa rain forest. He drove the Protege further down the muddy lane where he had parked it, and then gunned the engine to build up speed, smashing the Protege into the underbrush until it became stuck.
He used papers in Daysha's car to set the vehicle on fire at about 6 p.m., with Daysha's body still in the back seat.
His handcuffs clunked against the police interview room table as he sketched out a map for police to follow to find the burnt car and the body. The detective asked Jeffrey if he had planned to shoot Daysha that day.
Jeffrey shook his head and looked at the table. "Not really," he said. "I thought I never could do that to her, and suddenly this one day, I don't know what got into me, I just couldn't let her go.
"I almost went go back there to take my own life but, I just couldn't do it," Jeffrey told the detective.
Police need help finding car
The interview ended, and Jeffrey ate some breakfast. Police were stationed at the entrances to the Quarry Road area to prevent anyone from going in and disturbing evidence.
Detective Hatton and his supervisor, Lt. Randall Medeiros, searched for Daysha's car for more than an hour in the overgrown, crisscrossing trails and thick forest off Stainback Highway before finally giving up and returning to the police cellblock to get Jeffrey to show them where to look.
Riding in a police vehicle, Jeffrey directed them to the general area and again described for police what he had done and how, pointing out the exact location of the shooting. Medeiros would later describe Jeffrey's demeanor that day as "somewhat matter-of-fact."
"You know, I didn't see any remorse on his face," Medeiros said.
Medeiros walked off in the direction Jeffrey had indicated and finally located the charred Protege. It was under a tall eucalyptus forest canopy so thick that a crew in a fire department helicopter hovering directly over Medeiros and the car could see no trace of the car even with Medeiros guiding them by radio.
As police searched the area and gathered evidence at Quarry Road, family members including Daysha's mother, Donna Weber, and Daysha's grandfather, Tommy Akimseu, learned of the police activity in the area, and drove down Stainback Highway shortly after 11 a.m. to try to find out what was happening.
Police met them on the highway and told them the case was now a murder investigation, although positive identification of the body would have to wait until a match could be made with Daysha's dental records.
The family members were asked to leave the scene because they might interfere with the investigation, and they obeyed, telling police they would wait for more news at Tommy's house.
Jeffrey was returned to the police cellblock, and was waiting there at about 2 p.m. when his father called, asking to speak with him.
An officer in the cellblock told Jeffrey's father they would put Jeffrey on the line, but warned that they would monitor the call. A cordless phone was passed to Jeffrey in his cell, and the contents of the call were documented in a police report.
Jeffrey's father asked his son several times, "What's going on?"
Each time Jeffrey replied, "I don't know."
Finally his father grew impatient, and demanded. "Braddah! Tell me, what's going on?"
Jeffrey replied, "We went riding up Kulani."
Jeffrey's father said something inaudible, and Jeffrey said, "I wen kill 'um."
"Oh, no! Oh, no!" his father exclaimed. "I cannot help you, boy! I cannot help you!"
Then Jeffrey's father told Jeffrey goodbye, told him he loved him, and hung up.