Police: 4th arrest made after gang-related murder of man in Kearns; new details released

Paul Tuese Ama. Photo: Salt Lake County

KEARNS, Utah, June 21, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A fourth suspect has been arrested after a June 5 murder in Kearns.

Paul Tuese Ama, 42 and from Salt Lake City, has been booked on murder charges related to the shooting death of 34-year-old John Herman Tonga, a Midvale resident.

Ama was booked upon release from a hospital following the shooting. He was treated at Intermountain Medical Center for gunshot wounds to his right hand and right thigh.

In all, Ama is charged on suspicion of:

  • Murder, a first-degree felony
  • Two counts of felony discharge of a firearm, a first-degree felony
  • Aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony
  • Aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony
  • Purchase, transfer, possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony

Charged on June 8 in the same case were the following.

Lewellyn Auvaa, 38, of Kearns, booked 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.

Joleen Warner, 29, of Salt Lake City, booked for:

  • 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.

Iafeta Piuila, 45, of Salt Lake City, booked for:

  • Purchase, transport or use of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony
  • Possession or use of a controlled substance, a  class B misdemeanor

Talking to the media after the initial three arrests, 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.

Background

Police responded at about 7:30 a.m. June 5 to a report of shots fired, Unified Police Department Sgt. Melody Gray told Gephardt Daily at the time. 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.

New details

A probable cause statement filed for Paul Ama reveals new details in the case.

“The post-Miranda statement of Zachary Ama (says) that Paul Ama, Llewellyn, Auvaa and Auvaa’s girlfriend, Joleen Warner, were smoking dope at Auvva’s room at the Baymont Hotel, and they were talking about robbing Julio,” Paul Ama’s probable cause statement says.

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Gephardt Daily has confirmed with the Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill that “Julio” is another person who was on the scene. Gill said no additional information would be shared at present.

“Zach stated that Warner was the one that brought up the idea of robbing Julio. He stated that Warner contacted Julio and arranged to sell him a pound of dope, but Zach said he never saw any dope.”

Zach Ama said he went to the house in Kearns the next morning, but Julio did not show up, so the group eventually left. Later Zach Ama saw Julio’s car in front of the house, so the group returned.

“Zach stated that he thought everything was OK because everyone was shaking hands and acting friendly toward one another,” the statement continues. “Zach stated that Julio stayed in the house, but (Paul) Ama, Auvaa, Warner and John Tonga went out in the front yard and were standing by a gray car.”

Zach told officers he was watching from the yard before he entered the residence through the back door. He then saw Paul Ama and Warner come in through the front door, which they locked.

“Zach stated that he saw Ama and Warner holding guns. Zach stated that Ama and Warner were robbing Julio of his money and jewelry,” the statement says.

John Herman Tonga. Photo: Gunmemorial.org

Zach told officers that Auvaa and Tonga walked back to the front door, and one of them kicked it in during the robbery.

“Zach stated that Tonga had a gun, and shortly after he went inside, shots were fired, but he could not say who had fired the gun,” the probable cause statement says. “Zach stated that he, Warner and Auvaa ran out the front door, toward the street, where the gray car was parked.

“Zach stated that Tonga came out of the front door and then dropped to the ground. Zach stated that Uavaa and Warner got into the gray car and left, and that’s when he went back to the house to look for (Paul) Ama, but couldn’t find him, so he left on foot.”

No charges filed against Zach Ama could be found in the online court records system.

Warner was located several days later at a Best Western, the statement says. A search of her room turned up a large black duffel bag containing a black Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol. Officers also found a bag that field-tested positive for meth.

A preliminary autopsy performed June 6 on Tonga found a gunshot wound to the chest to be his cause of death, and his manner of death to be homicide. He also had two other gunshot wounds that were not life threatening.

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