Man Faces Manslaughter, Homicide Charges From November Crash

August 12, 2020, 11:30 AM HST (Updated August 12, 2020, 11:30 AM)
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Cassandra Ellis.

The driver of a vehicle that struck and killed a Kailua-Kona mother of four has been indicted on manslaughter and negligent homicide charges.

The indictment against Nicholas Abarcar was filed in the state’s 3rd Circuit Court Tuesday. Charges come nine months after the November crash on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway that left Cassandra Lynn Ellis dead and injured her three passengers. Ellis’ 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.

Abarcar faces charges of manslaughter, first-degree negligent homicide and second-degree negligent homicide in connection to Ellis’ death. Additionally, Abarcar was charged with two counts of first-degree negligent injury and second-degree negligent injury for the three passengers who were injured in the crash. Abarcar is also charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

Abarcar was initially taken into custody on the day of the crash but released pending further investigation. Hawai‘i Police Department Area II Assistant Chief Robert Wagner said the Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney wanted the toxicology report and mechanical inspection prior to filing charges.

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“Toxicology takes awhile to get back,” Wagner explained. “Add that to no grand jury for a few months due to COVID.”

The two-car crash occurred on Nov. 10, 2019. Abarcar, 25 at the time, 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 Ellis, who was traveling north.

Ellis, 35, died at the scene.

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

The November crash left a lasting impact on not only the community but the officers who responded to the scene.

“In my 18, almost 19, years (in the department), it’s probably the most violent impact I’ve ever seen,” Lt. Edwin Buyten said days after the crash in November.

Several of those officers were recognized by the department on July 17 for their life-saving actions.

“My daughter wouldn’t be here without you guys,” Laurel Haserot said during the ceremony at the Kona police station. “Thank you so much.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.

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