Second person arrested for obstructing Utah murder investigation
Crime • Man booked on obstruction count allegedly lied to cops.
Published: April 27, 2013 11:36AM
Updated: April 29, 2013 01:35PM
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Morgan Maree Janet Holst. Courtesy: Salt Lake County Jail

A second person has been arrested for allegedly lying to the police about the still-unsolved murder of a West Valley City man.

Police arrested Vaiola Mat­aele Tenifa, 30, on a second-degree felony count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to police about his knowledge of the shooting death of Sione Fakatoufifita, 19.

Fakatoufifita was shot and killed on April 13 in the parking lot of a Maverik convenience store at 1680 S. Redwood Road.

Lt. Josh Scharmin of the Salt Lake City Police Department confirmed Friday that Tenifa was the second arrest made in the case for obstruction of justice, but no suspect in the murder has been identified.

According to a probable-cause statement from the Salt Lake County Jail, Tenifa initially told investigators that he never left his home the night of the shooting. He changed his story in a third interview on April 23, saying that he did leave his home in his wife’s car and that he drove through the parking lot of the Maverik within minutes of Fakatoufifita being shot, according to jail documents.

“Vaiola stated he lied because he did not want to be involved or associated with this murder,” the probable-cause statement reads.

In addition to obstruction of justice, Tenifa was also booked under suspicion of five traffic violations.

Tenifa had a string of misdemeanor and felony convictions from 1999 to 2001, including aggravated assault and robbery, but none since, according to a search of Utah court records.

According to a court document, Fakatoufifita’s fiance, Morgan Maree Janet Holst, was the last person to see him alive as he got out of a car they were in and walked away.

Detectives interviewed the 18-year-old Holst after Fakatoufifita’s death, but last week, Holst was arrested under suspicion of lying to the police.

A probable-cause statement filed with her arrest on April 16 does not detail the nature of the alleged deceit.

After spending a week at the Salt Lake County Jail with no charges filed against her, Holst filed a writ of habeas corpus on Tuesday, asking to go before a judge and be released.

The petition contends that the jail can’t hold her this long without charges, and that her $250,000 bail is unreasonably high and based on the false assumption that she’s a flight risk.

“[She] wanted to fly to California for a couple of days in order to get control over her emotions and steer clear of the speculation and anger that was surrounding the death of her fiance,” the petition reads.

Even though investigators said they had no objection to her trip and she told them that she would postpone it if they needed her, detectives arrested her at the airport and told the court she was trying to flee jurisdiction, the petition adds.

On Wednesday, 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg denied Holst’s petition and gave prosecutors through the end of the month to file charges.

Tenifa has not been charged. His bail is set at $15,000, bondable.

Police are still looking for the killer, who they believe was alone. Witnesses saw the assailant almost get hit by a car after the shooting as he ran northeast across Redwood Road.

Investigators describe the shooter as a Polynesian man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt over a whiteT-shirt and dark jeans.

Police continue to ask that anyone with information about the case call them at 801-799-3000.

So far, it is unclear what sparked the shooting.

At the time of his death, Fakatoufifita was on probation for an alcohol-related misdemeanor, as well as a conviction for shoplifting. His family remembers him as a talented piano player who often provided music to the tight-knit Tongan church congregation he was part of in West Valley City.

Fakatoufifita’s family said that he and Holst were engaged to be married on May 4.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

kbennion@sltrib.com