Washington Man Pleads Guilty in 2011 Murder at Resort
A Washington man accused of killing his girlfriend last year at a South Kohala resort today pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and kidnapping.
County Prosecuting Attorney Charlene Iboshi said Philip Howard “Howie” Zimmerman of Bellevue entered the plea before Third Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra in Kona.
Zimmerman, 46, was arrested on May 23, 2011 at the Fairmont Orchid resort after hotel staff heard cries for help coming from the locked room shared by Zimmerman and his 44-year-old girlfriend, Susan Brockert.
A member of the housekeeping staff testified in a preliminary hearing that while he was unable to get into their room because of a deadbolt, he used an adjoining room to access Brockert’s balcony. According to a report last year from Hawaii24/7.com, from there he observed Zimmerman striking Brockert in the head with what appeared to be a piece of stone from a table-top.
Brockert, who also lived in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle, was visiting the Big Island on a company trip.
After the attack, Brockert was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital where she died of her injuries. An autopsy showed she died of multiple blunt force trauma and cuts to her head and neck.
According to a statement from Iboshi’s office, prosecutors reached a plea deal with Zimmerman after consulting with Brockert’s family. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to pursue an enhanced sentence which could have resulted in Zimmerman being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
However, the state is free to ask the court for consecutive sentences on the murder and kidnapping charges, and for a charge of criminal property damage to which Zimmerman also pleaded guilty.
According to testimony at his preliminary hearing, there was an estimated $17,000 worth of damage to the furniture and fixtures in the hotel room.
Ibarra granted a request by Zimmerman’s court-appointed attorney, Peter Bresciani, for a Sept. 27 sentencing date.
Zimmerman faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the second-degree murder charge, 20 years for the charge of kidnapping and five years for criminal property damage.
Last year, the Seattle Times reported that Zimmerman had previously been arrested four times for domestic-violence assault, violating a restraining order, threatening and cyberstalking his ex-wife’s divorce attorney and writing threatening letters to Bellevue police and employees.