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Local News in Brief : Tonga Native Charged in Transient’s Death

An immigrant from a South Pacific island was charged with murder Thursday after a transient who was repeatedly kicked in the head during a fight last week in a Van Nuys park died, authorities said.

Finau Maka, 19, a native of Tonga, was charged with the murder of John Mordechi, 36, who died at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at Valley Presbyterian Hospital, said Detective Mel Arnold.

Mordechi had been on life support equipment at the hospital since lapsing into a coma after the fight about midnight Friday in Woodley Park in the 6400 block of Woodley Avenue, Arnold said.

The victim and an acquaintance, Michael D. Brown, 27, of Van Nuys, had gone into the park earlier and were approached by six men who started an argument, Arnold said. The argument escalated into a fight during which Mordechi was kicked several times in the head and body, Arnold said. Brown was also injured but not seriously.

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The six other men left the park, but detectives traced them through witnesses and other evidence to a house in Reseda where five of them, all from Tonga, were arrested Saturday night, Arnold said.

One of the five men was Maka. Arnold said he was charged with the murder while the others were freed Thursday because it was believed that he was responsible for the blows that killed Mordechi.


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