East Hawaii News

Decomposed body discovered in Puna identified; manner of death classified as homicide

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The man whose decomposing body was discovered earlier this week at a Puna home was a Big Island resident.

Body Identified

Big Island police on Friday identified the victim as 47-year-old James Paul Phelps, who lived on Lehua Street in Mountain View. Phelps’ badly decomposed body was discovered by Puna patrol officers shortly after 1:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Lehua Street residence.

An autopsy was performed Friday. The forensic pathologist concluded that Phelps died as a result of a single gunshot wound to the head. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

Detectives with the Hawai‘i Police Department’s Area I Criminal Investigation Section are continuing their investigation, which is now classified as second-degree murder. No suspect has been identified. The motive behind the killing also remains under investigation.


Officers responded Tuesday to the Lehua Street home after a caller reported going to check on the welfare of an acquaintance and could smell a foul odor coming from inside the residence. She immediately contacted police. Responding officers located the decomposing body on a floor inside the off-grid residence.

Police ask anyone who might have information relative to this case to contact Detective Kimo Keliipaakaua with the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at 808-961-2375 or via email at [email protected], or call the police department’s non-emergency number at 808-935-3311.


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