Dahilig admits to using meth before deadly house fire

Accused burglar pleads guilty to manslaughter, burglary, drug charges

Published  1:46 PM HST Sep 12, 2012
Man pleads guilty to setting house fire
HONOLULU -

A man accused of setting fire to a home that killed a 97-year-old Pearl City woman pleaded guilty in Circuit Court Wednesday.

Michael Dahilig, 35, entered the courtroom knowing full well he would be spending a long time in jail.

In a plea deal, Dahilig agreed to plead guilty to charges of burglary, attempted burglary, drug possession and manslaughter -- seven counts total.

Dahilig admitted to the judge he was using meth at the time he was committing the crimes.

Prosecutors said Dahilig used a lighter to try and melt the lock of a storage shed at a home on Hoomalolo Street on March 30.

The break-in attempt failed, but the fire spread to the house, killing 97-year-old Betty Hagihara.  The city prosecutor dropped an arson charge and grouped the felony penalties together for a maximum of 35 years in jail.

Dahilig agreed to serve at least 11 years.  The family of Betty Hagihara is OK with the deal.

"They are in total agreement with this proposal," said city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.

Prosecutors were confident in their evidence against Dahilig, which included surveillance video from another home burglary and witnesses identifying Dahilig at the scene of the fire.

But Dahilig's attorney said his client changed his plea because he simply wanted to take responsibility for his actions.

Prosecutors will ask for the mandatory minimum jail time for Dahilig at his sentencing on Nov. 20.  But, they then plan to ask for an even higher mandatory minimum in prison before the parole board.

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