Boyfriend charged with murder in beating at Tulalip casino

TULALIP — Murder charges have been filed against a Pierce County man accused of beating his girlfriend outside the Tulalip Resort Casino, leaving her with injuries that proved fatal two days later.

Police reports list Nomeneta Tauave at 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds. He was aware his girlfriend of about four years, Hana Letoi, 35, of Tacoma, had a heart condition and was taking blood thinners.

In the past, a family member reported to police that Tauave shot and injured her in 2018, but Letoi did not want to speak with detectives and no charges were filed, the new court papers say.

The couple got into a screaming fight at a Tulalip casino Oct. 23, according to the charges. Security ordered them to leave. Letoi was advised that she didn’t need to go with Tauave, 33, of Spanaway. She walked with him anyway to a silver GMC Yukon.

A security officer followed them to the vehicle, and could see the Yukon rock from side to side as Tauave grabbed the woman and shook her, wrote the deputy prosecutor, Julie Mohr. As the vehicle began to drive away, the woman fell out of the passenger door, landing on her hands and knees. Letoi struggled to walk and begged for help. She told security her boyfriend ripped her pants and punched her.

Her nose bled. Her body seized. She fell forward, lost consciousness and never spoke again, the charges say. Her ribs were broken, possibly from CPR. She died at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Oct. 25.

Snohomish County Medical Examiner Dr. J. Matthew Lacy determined the cause of death was “hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy” — a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain — “due to resuscitated cardiac dysrhythmia due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease in the setting of acute emotional stress following a physical altercation.”

According to the charges, Lacy found the cardiac arrest was a result of the emotional distress caused by Tauave’s actions. Prior heart disease and the presence of methamphetamine in Letoi’s blood put her at high risk of “sudden cardiac events,” the charges say.

Police tracked down the boyfriend in Lakewood the next day. He had shaved his beard, and the Yukon — with its license plate removed — was discovered days later at a home in Yelm.

In an interview with Snohomish County detectives, Tauave stated Letoi began to “fuss” in the casino, and the “fuss” continued when they got into the Yukon, according to the charges.

He told police she hit him, then acknowledged he may have scratched her neck as he fended her off.

“He did not want her to leave the vehicle so as she tried to get out the passenger side door, he grabbed her hand and arm to keep her in the vehicle,” the charges say, while giving Tauave’s version of events.

He told police he eventually turned around and watched as Letoi spoke with security.

“He said she seemed fine,” according to the charges.

He reported he then watched as she “jumped” into the ambulance. He drove to his hotel in Everett, “since she seemed okay,” charging papers say.

Court records show Tauave had warrants for his arrest in a Thurston County case where he was accused of criminal impersonation, driving with a suspended license and obstructing law enforcement in 2019. He had also served time in prison for possession of a stolen vehicle, burglary and attempting to elude law enforcement.

Prosecutors charged Tauave with domestic violence murder in the second degree. His bail remained at $1 million, according to a court order filed last week. He’s being held in the Snohomish County Jail.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; Twitter: @snocaleb.

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