The intimate diary of Daysha Aiona-Aka, a 21-year old mother who was murdered at the hands of her estranged boyfriend, offers a rare glimpse of the dynamics of unfolding domestic abuse. Originally published in The Honolulu Advertiser in December, 2008 as part of Crossing the Line: Abuse in Hawai'i Homes.
On Nov. 1, 2006, Daysha was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Boyd Santos Jr., a man she had lived with and loved, and the father of her only child. She was 21. This is her story as told by her journals, her family and her friends. She is missed, and she is remembered.
Journal of violent love
Even in her journals, writing for herself, Daysha Iwalani Aiona-Aka was often guarded in the way she described what was wrong with her relationship with her boyfriend.
She wrote about making a better life for herself and their baby son. She wished her relationship with Jeffrey Boyd Santos Jr. could be as loving as it once was, and she fretted about the fights. She wondered if counseling would help. She worried about the harm that the strife in her home was doing to her son, a helpless witness.
At times she wrote with anger, at times with guilt. Usually, she wrote with hope, in the voice of a strong, optimistic woman who wanted everything to turn out right. She decorated her journals with sketches of butterflies and smiley faces, and she would replay for herself the vivid memories of better times.
"Remember the time we were cruising one night and we went to Dairy Queen for a snack, and Jeffrey ordered a Sunday, as soon as he got it he spilled it all over himself," Daysha wrote in an October 2004 entry. "It was one of those nervous first dates. When he would be all duked up and waiting for me at the bottom of the hill in his Honda Accord, smelling like a handsome prince in his Cool Water Cologne."
"I remember those amazing nights we spent together up Uka meadows, holding each other so tight because it was so cold."
Later journal entries reflect the ache of a woman who is losing her hope. Some of the neatly written pages read like black-and-white X-rays into the interior of the suffering, a confined place occupied by some exhausted stranger who no longer sounds like Daysha. Daysha was the bold woman with the tiare flower behind her ear who swooped up the driveway in her blue Mazda Protege to grab her sisters for an impromptu shopping excursion. She was the charmer who dazzled even the grumpy customers at Safeway with her wide grin and dimples.
But the stranger in the journal compared herself to dirty, stinking, puka socks buried in the bottom of some dark dresser drawer, abandoned to the gnawing cockroaches.
"I'm weak, I can barely get up in the morning, the only reason I do is because our baby needs to be taken care of," Daysha wrote just before midnight on July 20, 2005, as Jeffrey slept in the next room in their rented home in 'Ainaloa Estates in Puna on the Big Island.
"I think someone needs a lot of help, and it ain't me," she wrote. "I may need help, but in other ways. He's like a changing chameleon, like a vampire, it's horrifying, and I don't want my son around it. It's been five years and all this abusing hasn't stopped. Not even when I was pregnant, not even when he was in anger management class ... I've got to say that he hits me like every other day. I'll be lucky if I last two or three days without getting hit or getting my hair pulled.
"This man is a horrible person, and he don't love me, believe me."
There were outward signs. There was strange behavior and bruises. There were fights, smashed cell phones and Daysha said things that worried people. Her sisters saw things, and her grandmother went so far as to file for a restraining order against Jeffrey when Daysha was still a teenager.
But for six years Daysha kept returning to Jeffrey, and no one grasped the nature of the danger until after Daysha was dead.
Hard times, from the start
Daysha's older sister, Cassie Kamai, believes Daysha met Jeffrey at a time when Daysha was needy and emotionally fragile.
Daysha was in ninth grade, and had just moved back to Hilo after going through some ugly experiences at the hands of her peers on Kaua'i. She was aching from upheaval within her own family, and she seemed to be missing something, or craving something, Cassie said.
As a little girl Daysha divided her time between her grandparents' Hilo home in Waiakea Uka and the house where her mother, Donna Weber, lived about two miles makai of the grandparents' home.
Donna's relationship with Daysha's father, Stoney Aiona-Aka, had fractured when Daysha was 1. Stoney packed up and moved to Las Vegas, and Daysha had no contact with him growing up.
In an essay about her life that Daysha wrote as a teenager, she described how she would sit next to her mother watching talk shows on TV, and would fantasize about approaching Sally Jessy Raphael or Maury Povich to ask them to find her absent father for her.
"All my life, 17 years, I did not have any idea who he was and what he did for a living. I wondered and wondered each day that went by. I wanted to meet up with him and ask him all these questions I had inside. But I knew nothing about him, and didn't know how I'd find him," she wrote.
A couple of times Daysha got Stoney's number in Las Vegas and picked up the phone to call, but then hung up at the last minute, Donna said.
With Stoney gone, Daysha was raised in Hilo by her stepfather, Michael Dias, who she considered her "real" father. He tattooed Daysha's name on his neck, and built her a play house that still stands in the yard in Waiakea, stocked with Daysha's old Barbie dolls and other toys.
When Dias got a state job that required him to move to Kaua'i, Daysha and her mother moved with him. Daysha was in the seventh grade.
For Daysha, things went badly on Kaua'i. She wrote about the difficulty of making new friends at Kaua'i High and Intermediate School, and also about her confusion when Donna and Michael Dias split up at the beginning of Daysha's eighth-grade year.
Donna and Daysha got their own place on Kaua'i, and Daysha's older sister, Cassie, moved to Kaua'i to join them when Cassie finished high school in Hilo.
The breakup of Donna and Daysha's stepfather was painful. "I got into lots of trouble and did all the naughty things," Daysha wrote years later. "I ran away from home and partied a lot even on school nights because I missed my dad. I saw him only once in awhile, and I hated that because I was also very close to him.
"Then I realized there was not going to be no 'mommy and daddy' anymore, so I grew out of that stage and began to forgive and forget."
At school, there were more problems. Daysha was cutting class and getting into trouble, getting slapped with detention and suspensions, and coping with the jealousy of other teenage girls. Donna said her daughter's outgoing personality naturally made other girls want to be with her, but some resented her sudden popularity.
Daysha had a scuffle with another girl midway through her eighth-grade year, and was later attacked and "mobbed" by a group of girls in a neighborhood park. People she thought were her friends just stood around and watched, Donna said.
Daysha struck her head hard on concrete during the park attack, and was taken by ambulance to Wilcox Hospital. The experience left her anxious and always looking over her shoulder at school, and the police were later called in when Daysha reported the girl who led the attack in the park had followed up with a new threat at school.
A counselor finally recommended Daysha be home-schooled because of her fear of being attacked or mobbed again, and Donna said Daysha finished the eighth grade by completing her assignments at home. Kaua'i wasn't working out, and in the summer of 1999, Daysha made plans to move back to Hilo to go to Waiakea High School.
While on Kaua'i, Daysha had a "puppy love" sort of fondness for a boy, her family said, but it was not until she moved back to Hilo to live with her grandparents and started the new school year at Waiakea that she met her first real boyfriend. He was Jeffrey Boyd Santos Jr.
Trouble in Hilo, new romance
Daysha had her own name for her grandmother, Bev Akimseu. Daysha called Bev "Annie," which was short for "Auntie," and Daysha admitted that her Annie "spoils me rotten and makes sure I am well taken care of."
Bev and her husband, Tommy Akimseu, played a large role in raising Daysha; her older brother, Waylen Leopoldino; and her older sister, Cassie Kamai. Grandparents Bev and Tommy, who are both retired in Hilo from Hawaiian Electric Light Co., would pitch in, and the children often spent weekends and other time at the grandparents' house.
"They were always there for us. Whatever we needed, they were there," Cassie said. Daysha wrote that she was like a "big sister" to the Akimseus' younger son, and when Daysha returned to Hilo in 1999, she naturally moved in with Bev and Tommy.
The transition back to life in Hilo and Waiakea High School was difficult, Bev recalled. Although Daysha was deeply attached to Bev and had never been a troublesome child, she was now rebellious. Tommy "would take her to school, drop her off, he'd drive off, and she'd leave campus," Bev recalled.
She was skipping classes and barely getting by, and Bev was never quite sure how she managed to get promoted to the 10th grade. "I would tell her you can't go out, and she would just go," Bev said.
Jeffrey and Daysha were introduced by Jeffrey's ex-girlfriend early in Daysha's time at Waiakea High School, Cassie said. Daysha was 15, and Jeffrey was almost two years older, and was being home-schooled.
Daysha's new romance with Jeffrey began to take much of her time and attention. Cassie said Jeffrey often picked her up in the middle of the school day, pulling her out of her classes, and Daysha finally dropped out of high school in her senior year.
"He just didn't like the idea that he couldn't be there with her all day at school," Cassie said of Jeffrey. Cassie disliked Jeffrey early on because he seemed too clingy, constantly calling Daysha. He was also shy and unsociable, and never looked Cassie in the eye when she talked to him.
Bev and Tommy were also bothered. Jeffrey was polite, always carefully groomed and well dressed in collared shirts and slacks, but obviously reluctant to interact with Daysha's grandparents. He would park his car at the bottom of the driveway, and wait for Daysha to come out to talk with him. The couple would sit in the car and talk.
Tommy disapproved of that, and told Daysha, "If he wants to see you, then come up here." But that didn't help much.
"If he did come up he would sit outside there on the porch, just sit out there," Tommy said. "We never really got to know him, because he never wanted to come in."
Jeffrey would show up at the Akimseu home late, and Daysha would leave with him at 10 p.m. "I told her, 'Come inside the house, you can entertain him here, where are you going so late at night?' " Bev said. "It wasn't like a normal dating where he would come and take her to dinner or take her to the movies."
Later, Jeffrey would come to the house for family dinners, but didn't participate much. "He would sit right there in the corner, have dinner with us, Thanksgiving or Christmas or birthdays or whatever, and he don't say a thing for the whole time we're here with the family, and after he's finished he just get up and go out," Tommy said. "That's how he was."
As the relationship between Daysha and Jeffrey grew more serious, the family grew accustomed to Jeffrey's "ways," but he was always distant.
He may have seemed odd to the family, but Daysha would later describe those early days of the relationship with a sense of longing for something lost.
Shortly after Daysha and Jeffrey had a son together, Daysha recalled a night years earlier, "a beautiful night, and the sky was picture perfect and the stars were shining on us like we were on the set of a movie."
"My hair was blowing in the breeze and he stroked his fingers through my hair, and I remember him telling me, 'You are the most beautiful girl in the world,' " she wrote. "The reason why I remember it so well was that is the last, most romantic thing that he has ever been to me.
"We had so many wonderful times together that I would hate for it to be the last."
After reading Daysha's journals, Daysha's older brother, Waylen, said he has accepted that he will never know what was between Jeffrey and Daysha. That part of her life was always closed to the family, but even when she broke up with him after years of abuse, Daysha wrote that she would love him forever.
'I Will Never Give Up'
HILO, Hawai'i — Daysha Aiona-Aka's family knew she fought with her boyfriend, but it was the car crash in 2002 that prompted Daysha's grandmother to file for a restraining order to keep Jeffrey Santos Jr. away from the 17-year-old Daysha.
Daysha and Jeffrey were driving from his parents' home in Puna to Hilo, and were having a furious argument when they collided head-on with another vehicle. The couple suffered only bruises, but another motorist was seriously injured.
Jeffrey accused Daysha of grabbing the wheel while he was driving on the busy Kea'au-to-Pahoa Highway and causing the car to veer into oncoming traffic, which Daysha denied, according to Daysha's grandmother, Bev Akimseu. Family Court filings show Daysha had accused Jeffrey of physically abusing her on other occasions by slapping her, punching her and dragging her by the hair.
With the Family Court restraining order in effect, the couple separated for a time, Bev Akimseu said. "Then he started following her and coming around. I told Daysha, 'No, don't go back with him, because you know what he's like, because he's blaming you for this accident.' But she went back with him."
A Family Court judge ordered Jeffrey to attend anger management classes, but Jeffrey initially failed to complete the course, and was charged with contempt of court in 2003 for that lapse. He was fined $50, and finally provided proof to prosecutors the following year that he had finished the class.
Daysha hadn't wanted the restraining order against Jeffrey in the first place, and she became more guarded about what she told her family. Bev gently probed for details, trying to learn what was happening. "I always asked Daysha, 'Did it help him? Does he still abuse you?' But she denied it, she would say, 'No, he's all right.' "
The restraining order was amended so Jeffrey could visit with Daysha provided there was someone else around. Over time, the whole issue of the restraining order was abandoned, and the order expired.
Daysha was back with Jeffrey again, but she also had ambitions that apparently had nothing to do with him.
In 2003 as a senior in high school, Daysha assembled a scrapbook and narrative about her life, family and her ambitions, and in it Jeffrey is barely mentioned. He is featured only as an anonymous boyfriend who accompanied Daysha to Kona some weekends.
She wrote of her struggle to graduate from high school, remarking that "I was told many times that I might not make it to graduation, but I'll tell you one thing, that I will never give up and I will never lose faith in myself."
In her scrapbook, she sketched out plans to move to Las Vegas with a close girlfriend after graduation to enroll in the University of Nevada at Las Vegas to study fashion technology. If UNLV turned out to be unsatisfactory, she figured she would move on to San Francisco, where she wanted to attend an art academy.
"I am hoping to be a fashion designer and start my own business," she wrote. "I enjoy designing new fashions in the clothes line department, and that's my dream.
"Later I will succeed and be able to buy me a beautiful home in a nice area. Then from there I will be able to get married to a terrific man and start me a family. I want to get married and have kids when I have the money to give and support them."
Boyfriend causes Trouble at Daysha's workplace
When Daysha was 17, she moved out of her grandparents' home and into a house about two miles away where her sister Cassie and her husband lived. This offered freedom from her grandparents' supervision, but it turned out she would be more closely monitored by her boyfriend, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey began sleeping over more and more frequently, and finally moved in, Cassie recalled. He was quiet and not particularly troublesome at first, and sometimes went with Cassie's husband to hit balls at the golf course. But Jeffrey was jealous, and did not want Daysha anywhere near Cassie's husband.
"She couldn't sit in the living room if my husband was sitting in the living room; she would have to go in the bedroom and stay in the room," Cassie said. "He would go out to his friend's house, but she would have to stay home and stay in her room."
Jeffrey's possessiveness almost seemed obsessive. Daysha had a job at a store called Local Style in the Prince Kuhio Plaza, and some days Jeffrey would sit on a bench outside the store, waiting and watching, for her entire shift. Other times he would come inside the shop to just sit there, and owner Maxine Magnani would shoo him away.
Once when Daysha was trying to sell a boogie board to a group of young men in the store, Jeffrey noticed one of the men staring at Daysha, checking her out, and Jeffrey became angry. He announced that Daysha was his girlfriend, and invited the man who was staring at Daysha outside to fight.
"Ah, I just looking, brah," the man replied. Magnani, who watched the exchange, banned Jeffrey from Local Style that day. She told Daysha, "Your boyfriend cannot come around. I don't need this kind of problem." After that, Jeffrey would wait for Daysha on a bench in the mall, or in his car in the parking lot.
Maxine also noticed bruises on Daysha and asked about them, but Daysha would usually offer some story about hurting herself or walking into a wall. Once Maxine saw Jeffrey yank roughly on Daysha's arm, pulling her to the side to talk to her.
Maxine scolded Jeffrey, and later told Daysha, "If he hits you, he'll hit you again. Don't let him hit you."
One week Daysha came in with puffy eyes from crying every day, and said she and Jeffrey had been fighting all week because Jeffrey wanted to get married.
Daysha didn't feel ready to marry, and sometimes she questioned Maxine about Maxine's marriage. She asked the kind of personal, probing questions that suggested Daysha was trying to discover how another couple fit their relationship together. Maxine was fond of Daysha, and tried to explain the give-and-take of marriage.
By then Maxine suspected the young couple's relationship was violent, and she told Daysha: "You have to do what you feel is right. I wouldn't let him touch me. If they hit once, they're gonna hit you again, and if he's really possessive and jealous, you're going to have some problems."
Daysha was an excellent employee, trusted and reliable, but she disliked high school, and finally dropped out in her senior year in 2003. She applied and was hired as a bagger at Safeway, working at both Local Style and there for a time.
She felt guilty leaving Maxine, who she called "Auntie Max," but finally quit Local Style to focus on Safeway where there was more opportunity to advance. She was promoted to the floral department, but still visited Magnani on her lunch breaks. She would sometimes stop by the store with a sandwich to share with her former boss.
Jeffrey remained a constant presence. He would get angry if Daysha worked overtime or if the company wanted to send her off island for training, and he was irate when a family member appeared one day to help Daysha collect shopping carts at Safeway.
Even after she plunged into work, Daysha did not entirely give up on education. In 2003 the family traveled together to the Mainland to celebrate the graduation of Daysha's older brother, Waylen Leopoldino, from Seattle University, and Waylen made arrangements for Daysha to visit the campus of a fashion design program nearby.
"We walked around the school, and her eyes just lit up. I mean, she was in awe, it was all new to her," Waylen said. The different components of the program fascinated her. "It was like a kid in a candy store, she was just so amazed at what's going on."
Day'Rey's 'a gift from heaven'
Later that year Daysha realized she was pregnant with Jeffrey's child, and she initially had misgivings. At one point during the pregnancy, she approached her grandmother, Bev Akimseu, and asked if Bev wanted the baby. When Bev declined, Daysha resolved to keep the baby, and to change her life.
From the time she got pregnant at age 18, "she just did a turnaround, she stopped smoking, and she got serious about life and the responsibility," Bev Akimseu said. "When she had her son, she settled down and just straightened out her life when she realized her son was her priority."
Daysha and Jeffrey named their baby Day'Rey, a combination of their own names. Jeffrey tattooed the baby's name on his neck, and on her 19th birthday in 2004, Daysha reflected in her journal on what it meant to be a young mother.
"I do not feel any much older or any different. The only big difference in being a year older is God has given me a gift from heaven, a beautiful little boy, my son Day'Rey Kale'a Boyd. The most wonderful gift that money cannot buy," she wrote.
"I guess being a mommy leaves you with less advantages in life. Like all the attention, and during Christmas the baby will always come first. Today made me realize how important and how much responsibility it takes to be who I am today. I made a difference by bringing him into this world, and now I have to take good care of him for the rest of our lives."
Diary tells story of abuse
Daysha remained guarded when she talked to her family about Jeffrey. She knew her family really didn't like her boyfriend, and the family was reluctant to bring up their misgivings about Jeffrey because Daysha would get angry, Cassie said. Daysha would tell them, "It's none of your business."
She was far more expressive in her diary.
"Well, since I have nobody to talk to about my feelings, here goes," she wrote on Sept. 14, 2004, while she was still living at Cassie's house with Jeffrey. She was getting ready to go back to work after the birth of their son, and she was depressed. She and Jeffrey had argued all day, and she finally told him, "I wish you had stayed at work."
"He called me all these nasty, cruel names and he beat me," she continued. "Well, it all started when I told him I wish he died. That's when it got physical.
"I got really upset and I choked his neck and squeezed his head because I was so fed up. I'm sick of hearing all his bullshit. Our baby is supposed to make us stronger, not against each other. We hardly ever show each other love anymore.
"Well, he choked my neck, pulled me by the hair, kicked me in my stomach, pulled and pinched me in my ribs. He also tried to rip off all my clothes on my body. The whole time all I'm worried and thinking about is baby Day'Rey. I'm praying to God that Day'Rey doesn't wake up and hoping he doesn't see his father in rage.
"Before it all happened, I prayed with Day'Rey holding my hand. I asked God to give me strength and he did. I guess he heard me and gave me all the strength I had that night. With all the beatings I took, I did not fight back. I thought to myself that it ain't worth it. The only part of me that hurt was inside of me. I hurt badly inside because I feel guilty of bringing a beautiful baby boy into our lives and we can't even respect each other.
"Jeffrey can hurt me not only physically but mentally, too. It is so hard sometimes, I feel so alone at times, and I barely can see him in the eye the same anymore."
Anger, Fear and Family
HILO, Hawai'i — Daysha Aiona-Aka kept a photographic record of her baby's first years that was nearly as complete as her journals. She carefully assembled photos in a scrapbook bearing the title "Love Lasts Forever," and wrote captions explaining each photo. She tucked away movie ticket stubs, hotel stationery from places they visited and memorabilia from the trips they made to Kona.
The pictures of her boyfriend, Jeffrey Santos Jr., always identify him as "Daddy," and he is shown whooping it up in Kona, playing "airplane" by swinging his wide-eyed son around in Hawaiian Beaches, or kicking back in shades with an arm thrown around Daysha.
Daysha puzzled over Jeffrey in her journal entries, wondering why they were fighting more than ever after Day'Rey's birth. Daysha believed Jeffrey could be a good father and a good husband, and had hoped the baby would make them grow closer.
She wrote: "I don't know what bugs him and what goes on out there before he comes home, but some days he has so much anger filled up in him. I'm so clueless what causes him to get upset at me."
After Jeffrey turned 21, Daysha would get irritated when he would go out drinking with friends, leaving her home with the baby. She also worried about the weight she had gained during pregnancy. "I can't dress the same, but that shouldn't make him not love me anymore."
"He hardly ever is in a good mood. It hurts so much to see your spouse so unhappy when I give him all I've got. I can buy him anything, give him space for golfing, I treat him to a restaurant, but nothing can make him fulfilled with joy. I love him so much, but I love Day'Rey more, and if I have to step back for the sake of our son, I will take action," she wrote.
Days after that journal entry, the violence in the relationship finally caused their living arrangement in the house they shared in Hilo with Daysha's sister, Cassie Kamai, to unravel.
Jeffrey and Daysha were both working, and Daysha's grandparents; her sister, Cassie; and Cassie's husband took Day'Rey to watch a holiday parade. When Jeffrey got home, he became angry. "He just didn't like the fact of her or the baby doing anything with us," Cassie said.
Daysha returned home, and the couple began to fight in their room. As Daysha described it, "he smashed his Nachos Bellgrande into my face with jalapenos and hot sauce! Oh, it pissed me off and I attacked him and he pushed me down and we were fighting."
Cassie was in the next room. "I could hear him hitting her and throwing things; he threw food at her, the baby was on the bed," Cassie said. "I went in there, I was yelling and screaming, and then my husband got involved. After that, I called the police. She didn't want to do anything; she didn't pursue it."
Cassie called their grandparents, Bev and Tommy Akimseu, to come down to the house. Tommy told Jeffrey, "Don't hit women, if you get mad, go outside, hit something else." The police took Jeffrey from the house for a two-day cooling off period.
Daysha's blouse was ripped, there was food thrown all over the bedroom, and everyone tried to reason with her. They told Daysha, "Why do you want to do this to yourself? You have to think of the baby."
"I'm never going to forget that day," Cassie said. "We're trying to talk to her and she's just making excuses and excuses. ... She never blamed him for anything. Either it was her fault, or she made an excuse."
Writing in her journal later, Daysha was critical of Cassie. "Instead they mind their own business, they called the cops," she wrote. Jeffrey was angry at having to leave for a cooling off period because he had never before slept apart from his baby, "and he was sad and he was then sorry for what he had done," Daysha wrote.
Sorry or not, Cassie refused to allow Jeffrey back into the house, so Daysha and the baby moved out with him. They lived at Jeffrey's father's home in Hawaiian Beaches for a brief time, and then rented another home in Puna for their little family.
Threats, violence at santos home
Jeffrey Santos Jr. grew up in a violent home, with his parents leaving a trail of documentation of their problems in Family Court and Circuit Court files. Jeffrey was the youngest of four children, and the first request on file for a restraining order involving his parents, Darnelle Pacheco and Jeffrey Santos Sr., dates to 1982.
In it, Jeffrey's mother alleges Jeffrey's father accused her of seeing another man, pointed a gun at her in the presence of their children, and said that "he would shoot me, then the kids, then himself."
That was a year before Jeffrey Jr. was born, but court records show the threats and violence in the household continued. Jeffrey's mother again filed to seek court protection from Jeffrey's father in 1990, 1991 and 1993.
In the 1993 filing Jeffrey's mother wrote that Jeffrey Sr. had slapped her on both sides of her head, and "I feel that he might do something more serious to me if I don't get a restraining order because he abused me in the past many times."
Among other things, that filing alleged Jeffrey's father broke two telephones in the family home during an argument, a behavior Jeffrey Jr. would repeat years later when he smashed cellular telephones during his fights with Daysha.
Jeffrey Jr. was the only boy in the family and struggled in school, ending up in the special education program at Waiakea High School. He left Waiakea in his freshman year to be home-schooled after he alleged a female teacher made improper sexual advances toward him during what was supposed to be a tutoring session in a classroom in 1999.
The teacher denied the incidents, but other students knew about the allegations, and embarrassing false rumors circulated that Jeffrey had a sexual relationship with the teacher, according to a lawsuit filed by Jeffrey's family over the incident. Jeffrey finished the school year at home, and the lawsuit was settled in 2001.
Jeffrey and Daysha were introduced when Daysha arrived at Waiakea High as a freshman. Daysha was 15, and Jeffrey was almost two years older.
Almost from the very beginning, Jeffrey's relationship with Daysha was violent, according to police reports, court records and Daysha's journal entries. But Daysha also explained in her journal that she loved Jeffrey, that she believed he could change.
Daysha's family is angry and wounded by the loss of Daysha, but even now most family members do not try to paint Jeffrey Jr. as an evil person.
Daysha's sister, Cassie, called police when Jeffrey Jr. was fighting with Daysha in 2004 and kicked him out of her house because of the violence, but she recalled: "I didn't always think of him as a bad person. He had good in him; he was respectful towards me. I would never, ever think he would do something like this, never. Abusive, but not killing her."
Bev Akimseu, Daysha's grandmother, took out a restraining order to keep Jeffrey Jr. away from Daysha when Daysha was 17, but she also recalled how years later Jeffrey would arrive to pick up his son after work, and politely thank her for baby sitting for the couple.
"He was very attentive as a father. He would take care of him, change him; that's why I thought that he loved the child so much he wouldn't take the mother away from his child," Bev said. "He was very quiet, he acted very shy and quiet, but he always respected us."
Jeffrey Jr. and his family did not respond to requests for interviews.
Jeffrey worked on a macadamia nut farm near Hilo, and a co-worker describes him as almost boyish. Jeffrey and he would leap off their tractors on their breaks and launch into footraces to the soda machine in the warehouse. The winner was required to buy a soda for the loser.
They would drive tractors down the rows in the orchard, mowing, spraying chemicals and harvesting nuts by hand, and at times they would set traps for wild pigs. They killed some and gave away the meat, and other times gave away the small pigs, including a piglet Jeffrey gave to Daysha's grandfather to raise in the backyard in Waiakea.
Jeffrey was quiet, usually smiling, a reliable employee who would work without complaint, rain or shine. He spoke with a slight nervous stutter when he needed to ask a question at work, but stayed focused on the job and his training. Before taking the job at the macnut farm he had worked at a gas station, and he obviously liked the outdoors.
"I never did see the bad side of him, I never did see him angry with one of us," said the co-worker, who spoke on condition that his name not be used because he did not want to anger Daysha's family in a small-town setting like Hilo.
The co-worker recalled hearing Jeffrey end phone conversations with Daysha by telling her he loved her, and "he loved his little boy, too," the co-worker said. "He used to like how the little boy used to hang around him."
Then one morning in 2006, the macnut crews were gathered around the picnic table in the warehouse, waiting for their job orders. Jeffrey arrived, and the boss cheerfully told him, "Good morning, Jeff." Jeffrey then announced to the group, 'Oh, man, I got one TRO,' " or temporary restraining order.
The rest of the workers were startled. As they began talking and asking questions, Jeffrey sat down in a cloth-covered chair some distance from the picnic table. He was smiling and shaking his head "like he knew he did something wrong," the co-worker said.
That mild public face Jeffrey displayed at work was utterly contradicted by journals and other writings of Daysha, her careful script describing a violent anger that Jeffrey directed at her when no one else could see.
In a Family Court filing, Daysha described the events of the night that led to that restraining order. Daysha said she came home from work at about 7:30 p.m. "and we started to argue and it got physically abusive."
"He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me around the parlor, kicking me in my head and back. I fought back and tried to defend myself but he kept coming back at me.
"He pinned me up against the wall and choked my neck. He threw several objects at me and refused to let me leave the house. He also put his hand over my face and shoved me into whatever was near (couch, ground). He continuously kept punching me on my head leaving a lump for weeks.
"There are so many incidents of physical abuse over the past six years there is not enough space" to describe them all, Daysha wrote.
'Our Hearts Aren't There'
HILO, Hawai'i — Jeffrey Santos Jr. got off to an awful start with his girlfriend's father. It was so bad that her father, Stoney Aiona-Aka, punched Jeffrey in the head during one of their first meetings.
Stoney had split up with Daysha Aiona-Aka's mother when Daysha was 1, and Stoney left for Las Vegas. When he finally returned to the Big Island, Daysha was 17, and Stoney was eager to get to know his grown daughter.
He visited the surf shop where Daysha worked in the mall, sent her letters and called on the telephone, but Daysha wouldn't meet with him, and wasn't sure what to do. "Why now?" Daysha wrote in her journal later that year. "All of a sudden he walks into my life."
"I was afraid and scared of him, and I was told only bad stories about him," she wrote in her description of the meeting. "Then one day I woke up and I realized he is my father, biologically, and nothing will ever change that. He is the reason why I am here."
Daysha finally contacted Stoney, and went with a girlfriend to meet him for the first time at the Hilo bay-front area in 2003. They talked, tried to get to know each other, and made plans to meet again.
Daysha would tell Jeffrey when she was going to see Stoney, but Jeffrey was suspicious. Once when Stoney and Daysha were visiting and talking, Jeffrey repeatedly called Daysha's phone, interrupting. Finally, Stoney took the phone from Daysha and answered it for her. Jeffrey told him, "Oh, OK, have fun with your daughter."
Stoney and Jeffrey quickly clashed when Daysha took her boyfriend along to visit Stoney. Stoney was startled to look over to see Jeffrey seated on the living room couch, staring hard at him and sticking out his middle finger for no apparent reason.
Daysha tried to get Jeffrey to stop. Stoney, who admits he has a quick temper, warned Jeffrey to "show some respect before I pound your ass." Angry, Stoney walked out to the garage. Jeffrey followed, mocking Stoney, calling out, "Don't walk and talk."
When Stoney stripped off his shirt, Jeffrey suddenly turned around and ran back into the living room, which is where Stoney caught him. Stoney punched him once in the head, and Jeffrey curled up and stayed down. "One hit, that was all it took, and he went drop," Stoney said. "Then, I tell you, he went respect me."
The two men got past it, somehow. Jeffrey socialized with Stoney and his family at parties, and Daysha met and became close to her brother and sisters who also moved to the Big Island from Las Vegas. They were Stoney's son, Cody, and daughters Breeanna and Ashton.
Daysha would take the girls shopping, and Jeffrey took Cody and the girls riding dirt bikes and ATVs almost every weekend, welcome diversions for three kids new to Hawai'i. Jeffrey would pick them up after school or on weekends, and the group would head out to ride in an isolated area of Kea'au or to Quarry Road some distance off the Stainback Highway.
Ashton Aiona-Aka, 17, said Jeffrey would get mad sometimes, but he was nice to her, Cody and Breeanna. The girls once told Jeffrey they loved him and looked up to him as a big brother, thanked him for spending time with them, and thanked him for bringing their nephew, Day'Rey, into the world.
Jeffrey replied that he loved them, too. The girls also talked about Daysha and Day'Rey, and asked Jeffrey "just to promise that he'll always love them and never hurt them. He said 'I promise,' " Ashton said.
Daysha never told Stoney directly that Jeffrey was abusing her, but once Daysha called Stoney in the middle of one of their fights, and Stoney warned Jeffrey over the phone that he would leave Kona and drive across the island to pound Jeffrey if he didn't leave Daysha alone.
Daysha seemed more confident when she was around Stoney, and it made her act differently. Once Daysha and Jeffrey joined Stoney and his co-workers at the broken lava rock coastline at Pohoiki, where the crew would go to drink, and Stoney saw Daysha punch Jeffrey.
"She hit him right in the ear. Oh, I felt bad," Stoney said. "I told her, 'Daysha, that wasn't nice.' She always got brave when I was around. She said, 'Now, I don't have to be scared anymore.' "
Sticking up for her sisters
Daysha was not a timid person by nature. Her grandmother, Bev Akimseu, describes Daysha as "a little toughie," and her brother, Waylen Leopoldino, remembers how Daysha sometimes took matters into her own hands when Waylen hassled her and interrupted her card games when they were kids.
For Daysha's sisters, Ashton and Breeanna, who were disoriented after arriving at the Puna public schools from Las Vegas, Daysha was a blessing.
"As soon as she met us, she just had our back," Ashton said. When the girls were having problems at school, they would call Daysha, and she would immediately ask if they needed her to come get them.
Once when Daysha was collecting Breeanna from intermediate school, a bigger girl was teasing Breeanna about being short. The girl followed Breeanna to Daysha's car, asking Breeanna, "How tall are you, like, 2 foot?" Breeanna was in tears by the time she got in the car.
When Daysha learned what was happening, Breeanna recalled, "my sister got out of the car and she said '2 foot? What, you like your ass be 2 foot?' " The startled bully turned to face the advancing Daysha, thought better of it, and took off around the corner of a school building.
As Daysha's relationship with her sisters grew, they became protective of her as well. Once Ashton was shopping with Jeffrey, Daysha and Day'Rey in the Hilo Wal-Mart, and Jeffrey suddenly began making nasty comments about the way Daysha was dressed.
She had on a pretty pink blouse, jeans and white high heels, Ashton said. "It was like he didn't want her to dress the way she did; she always dressed pretty. He would yell at her for the way she dressed because people were probably staring at her and checking her out."
"I can dress however I want," Daysha replied, and continued walking in front of Jeffrey at the entrance of the store. Jeffrey, who was pushing a shopping cart with Day'Rey seated inside, rammed her with the cart. Ashton was so incensed that she punched Jeffrey with a closed fist.
Daysha wrote in her journal that she didn't want to make a scene in the store, but when they got to the car, Jeffrey began to yell.
"He kept calling her names like a whore and a slut, and she didn't do anything," Ashton said. Ashton finally leaned forward from the back seat to reach between Jeffrey and Daysha, and cranked up the music to drown out Jeffrey's shouting.
"The baby don't need to hear it. I didn't want to hear it, and she definitely didn't want to hear it, that's kind how we got him to shut up," Ashton said. "Whatever works."
People who knew Jeffrey agreed he didn't drink much or use hard drugs, but according to court records and police reports he was a daily marijuana user, and often kept a bong in his truck.
Ashton said Jeffrey would get stoned whenever they went ATV riding down in an overgrown old quarry off Stainback Highway that is ringed by a dirt path. He would also bring his .22-caliber Taurus nine-shot revolver, and would shoot at piles of rocks or cans or an old dryer.
It took the girls about five minutes to ride around the circular trail in the quarry, and sometimes they would hear gunshots over the noise of the motors.
When they rode back to Jeffrey, they asked about the shots. Jeffrey replied that he was just making noise, firing rounds into the air. "We used to find it funny, but it's not funny anymore," Breeanna said.
'A new beginning' for couple
When Daysha and Jeffrey first moved out of the Hilo house they had shared with her sister Cassie's family, Daysha had high hopes.
"Our family comes first, and now it's like a new beginning," she wrote. The Hilo house had been crowded, and she was pleased that the friction between her family and her sister's family would no longer be a problem.
Daysha and Jeffrey started seeing a counselor, and during their first session they agreed to stop calling each other names. Daysha admitted she slipped the day after the session and called Jeffrey a "dumbass," but predicted that "Jeffrey's abuse is going to stop. He's not a bad, harmful person. I am able to fight back!"
"There hasn't been any abuse or name calling from him, but he still has some major issues, like he's really insecure," she wrote. Jeffrey would call her cell phone the moment she was supposed to take a scheduled work break, and would call the work line if she did not pick up immediately.
He would ask where she was, and whose voice he could hear in the background. Daysha described it as "insanity."
They moved out of Jeffrey's father's house and into their own rented home in 'Ainaloa Estates in Puna, but by June 2005, Daysha was frustrated again.
The baby was almost a year old and "my relationship with his father is ripping right out. Our hearts aren't there, and I don't feel the same way like before. It's like we're in it just to raise our son, and no more. We don't respect each other or even care for each other like before. I have to say my life is seriously miserable and going downhill.
"Our son is the most important right now and forever, but I don't know what to do," she wrote. "I just don't want to live the lifestyle I'm living in right now. Being a parent is harder than I expected."
By late July, Daysha wrote a more desperate journal entry while Jeffrey slept in the next room. She said she was lucky to go for just a few days without being hit or having her hair pulled, and she described Jeffrey as a "vampire."
"He's took so much punches at me that I've never fought back as much as I ever wanted to," she wrote. "He's way tougher than me, and if I was to be harder than him, that would make him feel weak. So I'd get even more hurt so it ain't even a win-win situation. It's 'I' hit you, and 'you' stay as if you were a statue, and if you hit back, you'll get it 10 times worst. So now I don't even try.
"I take and take but don't distribute. I don't have enough energy, and if I look like a total mess the next day, I'm not going to have an explanation to give anyone because I cannot lie."
Friends who knew Daysha during the year that followed told police how Jeffrey would call Daysha foul names in front of other people. Another co-worker told police she knew Jeffrey was abusive, and described how Daysha seemed to be under stress. "Her hands would shake. Her hands would shake sometimes when you talk to her," the friend told police.
Daysha's brother, Cody, slept over at Daysha's house once, and later described for police how a fight erupted when Daysha cooked a dinner Jeffrey didn't like. She cooked a second meal, but Jeffrey was still angry and threw things at her. He grabbed Daysha and pushed her up against a wall, and she told Jeffrey to stop. The baby was crying, and Jeffrey told her she was "retarded."
In late July 2006, Jeffrey told Daysha that "he wants to kill and shoot my whole family," Daysha wrote in a court filing that fall.
Then on Aug. 11, 2006, Daysha came speeding up the driveway of her father Stoney's house in Hawaiian Paradise Park, disheveled and upset, and told Ashton to call the police because Jeffrey was hitting her. Ashton said the police told them to meet them at Daysha's house in 'Ainaloa, so Ashton and Daysha got in the car, and Daysha drove back home.
The police weren't there yet, and Jeffrey had locked them out. Jeffrey was in the bathroom with Daysha's cell phone, so Ashton climbed through the kitchen window and unlocked the door to let Daysha in. The baby was watching a movie in the bedroom, and the plan was to grab him and a few things and get out.
They didn't make it in time. Jeffrey emerged from the bathroom shouting and hitting Daysha and throwing toys at her, Ashton said. Ashton warned him to stop, and told him the police were on the way. Jeffrey seemed to panic at that news.
According to court records, Daysha's only visible injury when police arrived was a small scratch on her neck, but she told police Jeffrey had punched her in the head, shoved her against the wall and threw her to the ground.
Jeffrey was arrested that night for abuse of a family or household member, and his mother posted $1,000 bail to get him released, according to court records.
Out, On Her Own
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?"
The Murder and Confession
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.
The Boy Left Behind
HILO, Hawai'i — From the time she was a little girl, Daysha Aiona-Aka kept journals, writing in them almost every night. Her family would give her new journals as gifts, knowing she could always use another.
She decorated the margins with butterflies, and recorded stories of her life with her boyfriend, Jeffrey Santos Jr., and her baby, Day'Rey, in her neat, careful script.
"I cannot believe how extremely fast he's growing," she wrote of Day'Rey shortly after his birth. "He is very observant and mellow nowadays. He still grumbles here and there, but not very often. He's beginning to laugh a little, and he knows our voices, so that's a good thing. ... But he is so adorable and I am much grateful to have him in our lives. He is the most happiest thing that ever happened to me."
After Jeffrey murdered Daysha, her family found a stack of blank journals left behind in her room, volumes and volumes of empty pages she had meant to fill. She has missed much in the two years since she was killed.
Day'Rey is now 4, and his family changed his name. He has been adopted by his great-grandparents, Bev and Tommy Akimseu, and shortly before Halloween he was dressed up as Superman and jazzed with excitement, scampering across the carpet in a cape, posing for pictures and mixing it up with his cousins.
"Annie!" he called, trying to get the attention of Bev. "Annie" is short for "auntie," and is the name Daysha always used for Bev.
Like Daysha, Day'Rey has won his Annie's heart, and she fusses over him. He has been known to appear at his baby sitter's house early in the morning with a big grin and a popsicle in each fist. When Bev isn't around, Day'Rey sometimes announces, "I want my Annie." He is a restless, high-octane boy, and family members marveled recently when he sat quietly through a candlelight vigil in Hilo to remember his mother and other victims of drunken drivers and violence. Daysha's mother, Donna Weber, joked that the sight of a row of solemn, uniformed police officers at the ceremony in front of Day'Rey may have discouraged any squirming.
He is the focus of much energy in the family. When Day'Rey moved into Bev's house with Daysha before the murder, Bev was shocked to hear the 2-year-old casually call his mother a "bitch." Daysha explained he had learned it from his father, Jeffrey.
Later, after Daysha was killed, Day'Rey was uncontrollable for a time, Bev said. He would yank on the hair of his cousins, pulling them down. "He would come and just hit us, and he would throw things across the room ... because of the father, flying things," Bev said. "We really calmed him down."
"Sometimes, you can see how angry he is," she said.
Daysha foresaw some of this. As the violence with Jeffrey grew worse, Daysha prepared herself to leave Jeffrey, and wrote about her fears for her son in one of her journals.
"You know it saddens me because we've been through a lot together and now we have a son to think about, but I cannot put up with all the abuse," she wrote. "My life is threatened by him, and now I'm just so afraid for my son. Not being abused, but I'm afraid that he's gonna grow up in the eyes of his father if nothing happens."
Day'Rey saw too much the day his father shot his mother in the rainforest off the Stainback Highway, and things he has said suggest he had some degree of understanding of what he saw.
It can be unnerving. Family members may be watching TV with the kids running around and playing, and suddenly Day'Rey will start talking about it, saying "Oh, my mommy fall down, daddy make blood, bang, bang," Donna said. Family members have been working with a counselor to learn how to help Day'Rey cope with his loss, and his memories.
Daysha's sister, Cassie Kamai, said Daysha's murder helped bring the rest of the family closer together, and "now we realize that her son is most important right now. He had a lot of needs."
Jeffrey himself came from a violent home, and "you've got to break that cycle, you have to break it," Cassie said. "If you keep doing it, it's going to be repeated, and repeated, and repeated and repeated."
Dreaming of a better life
Shortly before she was killed, Daysha went out on the town with her older brother, Waylen Leopoldino, and they sang songs and drank and had fun. Waylen grew tired and left at about midnight, but Daysha wanted to stay out longer.
For some reason Waylen woke up at about 5 a.m., and realized Daysha still wasn't home. He got worried and tried to call her. At first she didn't answer, but then she picked up, laughing.
Waylen asked what was so funny, and she told him she was downtown watching the vendors at the Hilo farmer's market unload produce and set up shop under their tarps. What else can a young person do in Hilo town when you aren't ready to go home?
Daysha had planned to leave little Hilo for bigger things. She told her former boss she planned to move to Honolulu to work at a Safeway on O'ahu. She told family she planned to move to Seattle, and told friends she planned to marry her soldier boyfriend and head for the Mainland to join him. She had plans.
She left behind a hole in her family. When Daysha was with her kin, things sort of revolved around her, Waylen said. She was lighthearted and silly, and he would wait impatiently for her to come home from work to liven things up.
"You can tell when somebody like that is missing; you always want her to be home," he said.
Daysha's grandmother, Bev, said that since Daysha's body was burned, the family never saw her, and never got to say goodbye. Bev struggled to describe what they experienced.
"You read it in the paper, and you don't know, you really don't know the hurt the family goes through. All these years you read about stories, and you just cannot imagine," Bev said, the Hilo rain pounding on the roof of her Waiakea home. "Now I see girls around her age, and it just breaks my heart."
"I think they need to be told, these young girls, the first time it happens, you need to end the relationship right then," she said. "It's not going to get better. The minute somebody hurts you, end it, because as it gets more and more involved, that's how Jeffrey thought he owned her, and then they cannot get out because they threaten their lives."
For Daysha's youngest sister, Breeanna Aiona-Aka, "nothing has been the same after my sister died." Daysha looked out for Breeanna, providing a sympathetic ear and a knowing smile when Breeanna had boy problems.
Breeanna, 16, inherited many of Daysha's clothes, and she has pictures of her, and memories. But sitting at her family's kitchen table in Puna two years after the murder, Breeanna cried all over again. It just isn't enough, she said.
"It's not being able to see her face, not being able to see her smile except for pictures, not being able to hear her voice at all, being able to call her cell phone, knowing that it's turned off," Breeanna said. "She was the one I always talked to about how I was feeling, whether I had problems with Mom, Dad, my brother, sisters, or school problems.
"The most thing that hurts is, whenever I see my nephew, and I look at him, I can just see her smiling," Breeanna said.
Daysha's mother, Donna Weber, still has trouble sleeping. She tosses and turns, and cannot help thinking of Daysha.
Two years after the murder, Donna keeps Daysha's ashes in her home in a polished wooden box, still unable to bury her daughter. "I'm not too sure what I'm waiting for," she said.
Pushing a grandson in a stroller in the carport of her Hilo home, and bending down to coo at the boy, Donna said she finds some solace in baby-sitting her daughters' children. "If I didn't have my grandkids, I think I would be in the crazy house already."
Donna testified at Jeffrey's minimum term hearing before the Hawai'i Paroling Authority, and looking at Jeffrey she said she saw "no remorse, no nothing. Always his same smile."
Jeffrey, 25, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a firearms charge on Aug. 3, 2007. The Paroling Authority imposed an extraordinarily high minimum term of 100 years.
Unless Jeffrey can convince his keepers to reconsider, he will die in prison.