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Lax Group Home Blamed for Killing

HONOLULU (CN) - The family of a taxicab driver claims two teen-age boys beat him to death in a drunken spree made possible by the negligence of the state-funded group home that housed the boys.

The Estate of Charlys Tang sued the nonprofit Hale Kipa group home, Kilani Derego and Michael Robles, who were convicted of killing the cab driver.

The family claims that both boys left the Hale Kipa home in Honolulu on April 30, 2010 to drink on the beach unsupervised. Early the next morning they hailed Tang's cab, then beat him to death in a grocery store parking lot, according to complaint in Hawaii's First Circuit Court.

Tang's family claims Hale Kipa turned a blind eye to the boys' behavior that led to Tang's death.

According to the complaint, the state-licensed "Passages 2" program is designed for youths who "'[c]onstantly demonstrate[] severe emotional and behavioral disturbances that cannot be safely managed in a less restrictive setting," are "at imminent risk for a more intensive program,'" and who have "'had unsuccessful treatment at [] less restrictive level[s]." (Punctuation as in complaint.)

Derego, 17, had been placed in Hale Kipa as a foster child, and Robles, 18, was there as a condition of parole for the juvenile crimes of sex assault, theft and runaway charges, according to the complaint.

The family claims that the home failed to supervise the two boys despite house rules that required curfews and bed checks every 20 minutes on overnight shifts.

"Hale Kipa knew that Robles and Derego had a propensity for violence," the complaint states. The family claims the boys had violated numerous house rules, destroyed house property and threatened staff members. "Hale Kipa staff also knew that Derego and Robles had formed a mixed martial arts fighting club," according to the complaint.

The family claims that on April 30, 2010, instead of using his approved furlough to visit his father, Derego spent the afternoon drinking with Robles and other friends at Ala Moana Beach Park. "Derego and Robles often drank at Ala Moana Beach Park, and often to the point of intoxication," the complaint states.

Robles returned to Hale Kipa alone at about 8 p.m. and admitted being drunk to a staff member, the complaint states. But the family says Hale Kipa staff members neither tested, reported nor sanctioned Robles nor tried to retrieve Derego from the park.

Although Robles was the only resident in Hale Kipa that night, "Due to the complete lack of supervision by Hale Kipa staff, Robles was able simply to walk out the front door of the Damon Street facility" to catch a bus to Waikiki, where he and Derego continued to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, the complaint states.

After midnight, the boys hailed a cab, told Tang to stop in the dark parking lot of a Waipahu grocery store, where they "used their mixed martial arts fighting techniques to beat Mr. Tang," who suffered head injuries from which he died 14 hours later, according to the complaint.

The family says the boys fled, and Robles returned to Hale Kips that night, but was allowed to leave again the next night, in violation of his curfew and conditions of his parole. Derego didn't return to Hale Kipa until two days later, and the two ran away from the home together on May 3, according to the complaint.

That day, "On May 3, 2010, Hale Kipa staff member Eydie McNicoll saw on the evening news police sketches of the individuals suspected of murdering Mr. Tang. She immediately recognized the perpetrators to be Derego and Robles. Nonetheless, she failed to call the Honolulu Police until the early morning hours of May 4, 2010," the complaint states.

Robles was arrested on May 6 and Derego on May 7.

"During the period that Robles and Derego resided at Hale Kipa, up to the date of Mr. Tang's murder, Hale Kipa staff was told by supervisors not to document certain youth behavior, even when that behavior demonstrated the youth to be violent or threatening, and therefore inappropriate candidates for placement at Hale Kipa facilities," the complaint states. "When reports concerning youth behavior were in fact made, Hale Kipa supervisors routinely quashed the reports, ignoring the concerns raised by subordinates Hale Kipa supervisors also discouraged Hale Kipa staff from calling the police when staff believed it to be appropriate."

Robles was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison; Derego was convicted of murder and faces up to life in prison, according to the complaint. He will be sentenced in May.

The family seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, gross negligence, and negligent supervision.

They are represented by Matthew Winter with Davis Levin Livingston.

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