Family of woman killed in boating accident copes with the heartbreak

Jury to begin deliberations in trial Friday

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13 2012 5:20 p.m. MST

"I think it's just to remember my sister not as a trial or I could even say, a piece of evidence, which has been hard, but the person she was," brother Andy Fujimoto said, pausing as his emotions caught in his throat.

He said he thinks about the "songs that will never be sung" and that the idea saddens him. He hopes that perhaps they will be sung elsewhere, or by someone else.

Esther Fujimoto was 49 years old, accomplished and adept, but she was still their baby sister.

"Because she was the youngest, I remember her as the baby. I remember her always as being the younger one and that's what I always see her as," Bryan Fujimoto said. "That she would be the first one of us to die and to die in such a horrific manner … I never would have guessed in a million years."

In a video recorded interview shown Thursday, Shepherd said Raines was driving the boat on a last loop through Spring Creek when he swerved and told them he had seen a woman in the water. Shepherd said he took the helm and circled back to check on Esther Fujimoto. He said she appeared angry, but said she was OK.

"It made my blood boil," Bryan Fujimoto said. "It absolutely all spoke to everything is about me, nothing about his responsibility or his duty under the circumstances."

The water was dark, almost black, Shepherd said in the video. He did not see blood in the water.

"She never said 'help me,' never once, to us," Shepherd said in the interview.

Does Bryan Fujimoto believe that?

"Not for a second. I find that absolutely incomprehensible given everything I know about the case and everything I've heard in the three days thus far."

Cause for reflection

Andy Fujimoto said the case has caused him to reflect more than once. He has thought about if he had been in Shepherd's shoes. He has thought about if he were the man's father.

"I think of myself, if I were to hear the call for help, what would I do? And I think it causes all of us to ask that question of ourselves regardless of what occurs in this circumstance," he said. "I know that it happens and it happens in a lot of different ways and I would hope that all of us would understand the need to respond."

They know that in the courts they will find some measure of justice and that it will not be left to them to decide what that will be.

"One of the things that has been extremely difficult in this situation is not to judge," Andy Fujimoto said. "And I suspect in this venue it's not my responsibility to judge, so I suspect that I'll just leave it at that."

Neely said it's an emotional case, a sad case, and that both he and his client extend their condolences to the Fujimoto family. He said he understands the family's frustration in some sense.

"This is a 21-year-old boy that was caught in a very serious situation and I don't think he had the maturity to display what everyone wants and expects," Neeley said. "The defense is he didn't know. He felt he was being scolded by the woman and that was a mistake."

Prosecutor Dean Saunders said he was only frustrated that the law at the time only allowed for misdemeanor charges. Whatever questions and debates there were about lighting and volume and the fact that no blood evidence was found on the boat, it's a straightforward case in his mind.

"There's no way these guys didn't know," he said. "It's just inexcusable."

Bryan Fujimoto said the case has shown him some of the worst of humanity.

"It's heartbreaking. It just breaks your heart and to know that that will always be there, that will never go away," he said. "Because what happened will never go away — we will never see her like she was, walking through that front door, ever again. … It just breaks our hearts all over again or it continues to break our hearts and at this point, I will say, it probably will forever."

But Andy Fujimoto said there has been another side, too.  

"One of the things that it's clearly done is it's brought our family closer together. It's certainly given us an opportunity to see the gift of friendship as well," he said. "Amongst all the travesty, there's certainly good things that have happened, so we just look for the good."

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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