Breaking: Suspects arrested in Kearns homicide; motives robbery, gang related

From left, Llewellyn Auvaa, Joleen Marie Warner and Iafeta Piuila. Photos: Salt Lake County

KEARNS, Utah, June 8, 2019 (Gephardt Utah) — The Unified Police Department has made three arrests in the fatal shooting Wednesday in Kearns.

The arrestees are Lewellyn Auvaa, 38, of Kearns; Joleen Warner, 29, of Salt Lake City; and Iafeta Piuila, 45, of Salt Lake City.

“After tireless hours the Unified Police Department Violent Crimes Unit was able to develop information and make three arrests in relation to the homicide which occurred in Kearns on Wednesday,” a UPD statement says.

Talking to the media, Salt Lake South Sheriff Rosie Rivera said the shooting started a robbery, and the incident also was gang-related. All those arrested were gang members, she said.

The victim has been identified as 34-year-old John Herman Tonga, a Midvale resident. Another man was treated at a local hospital for serious injuries.

According to initial jail booking charges in the June 5 shooting case, the suspects are being held on suspicion of:


  • Aggravated murder, a first-degree felony
  • Aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony
  • Possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a second-degree felony
  • Felony discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony

Auvaa has a long criminal history and 15 known aliases.


  • Aggravated murder, a first-degree felony
  • Aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony
  • Felony discharge of a firearm — shooting in the direction of a person, a third-degree felony
  • Possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.

Warner has six known aliases.

Information on Piuila has not yet been entered into the jail computer system.


Police responded at about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to a report of shots fired, Unified Police Department Sgt. Melody Gray told Gephardt Daily. Officers responded to the area of 4819 S. 4720 West.

“When officers arrived they found a male in the front yard who was deceased, and in addition there was another male who was leaving the scene as officers arrived,” Gray said on Wednesday. That individual is currently being questioned by officers.”

About 10 minutes after the first call, a second call came in to Unified police from St. Mark’s Hospital ER in Taylorsville saying a man had arrived there with a gunshot wound.

“We later determined that that male was at the house when he was shot as well,” Gray said.

Gephardt Daily will have additional information as it becomes available.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here