Suspect in Negligent Homicide Tests Positive for Drugs

February 25, 2020, 12:48 PM HST (Updated February 25, 2020, 12:48 PM)
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Cassandra Ellis.

The driver of a vehicle that struck and killed a Kailua-Kona mother of four was operating under the influence of drugs at the time of the wreck, according to the Hawai‘i Police Department.

On Nov. 10, 2019, Nicholas Abarcar was traveling south on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway in a Jeep Renegade when he crossed into oncoming traffic and struck a Honda Pilot driven by Cassandra Lynn Ellis, who was traveling north.

Ellis, 35, died at the scene. Her 15-year-old daughter, Taylor Campogan, and Campogan’s friend, 15-year-old Kawena Haserot, were pulled from the burning vehicle by police, as was Ellis’s 10-year-old daughter. All three children survived.

Abarcar, 25 at the time of the accident, has a history of DUI, arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and operating a motor vehicle without a license in August 2017.

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While Abarcar’s blood alcohol content following the November 2019 incident came up zeroes, HPD Sgt. Koyanagi confirmed Abarcar’s blood tests were positive for drugs.

“We only disclose if alcohol or drugs or both were a factor. We don’t get into the type of drugs/alcohol or the amounts,” said HPD Assistant Chief Robert Wagner, who relayed Koyanagi’s confirmation to Big Island Now via email.

“The case is presently with the Prosecutor’s Office for review,” continued Wagner, adding that it will be up to the court to decide if drugs were a factor in the crash and the resulting consequences. “We can only lay out the facts, which are while under the influence of drugs, the suspect went left of center into an oncoming vehicle and killed the victim.”

Police initially arrested Abarcar on suspicion of negligent homicide, three counts of negligent injury, operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant and reckless driving. Police reported in their initial communication that speed and drugs were suspected factors in the crash.

The Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney is reviewing potential charges against Abarcar at this time.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter, and radio talk show personality covering college athletics in Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing, and his work as a sports columnist.

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