Hearing date set for accused in Safotu teen death

The hearing for the Church Minister alleged to have caused the death of a 16-year-old boy from Safotu has been set down for 20 December, this year. 

Methodist Church Reverend Poasa Leaupepe is facing a total of four charges, more than a year later in connection with the death of Sootaga Viliamu in February 2020. 

Rev. Leaupepe is accused of manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm and causing injuries as well as assault. He pleads not guilty to all charges filed against him and is currently out on bail. 

He was represented by lawyer Leiataualesa Jerry Brunt when he appeared before Justice Fepulea'i Ameperosa Roma. 

Justice Roma has remanded the accused on the same bail conditions until the hearing date. 

The body of Viliamu was only released from the morgue last week after his post mortem was completed.

This comes after 15 months in the morgue awaiting a pathologist for a post mortem along with a handful of others. 

He was finally laid to rest at his home in Safotu last Wednesday surrounded by his family who has been awaiting his return. 

Rev. Leaupepe was serving at the Safotu Methodist Church last year up until the time of the incident which allegedly led to the death of the schoolboy. 

Two months after the incident occurred Rev. Leaupepe was removed from Safotu and is now stationed at the church’s office in Faleula. He is still an ordained church minister and was only removed from the village after an interim minister was posted to the church. 

During the police investigation into the boy's death last year, the Police disclosed that they would review initial medical findings that suggested the boy died from natural causes. 

Last week, Caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi confirmed that a backlog that had reached nearly 20 bodies at the national hospital morgue has now been cleared. 

A growing body count in the mortuary at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital had been building since the nation’s borders were closed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the absence of a forensic pathologist on the island. 

It peaked in March when the Samoa Observer revealed Police concerns about the ability of the morgue to preserve the deceased and their value as evidence in Police or coronial inquiries. 

On Thursday Tuilaepa said the backlog had now been addressed and been cleared.

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