Death in a recliner chair: Jury finds wife guilty of manslaughter of her husband

A jury has found Malia Li guilty of the manslaughter of her husband Lanitola Epenisa, who was found fused to a recliner chair with sores all over his body.

The mother-of-two has been on trial at the High Court in Auckland for almost five weeks.

Epenisa died from the blood infection sepsis, after two strokes slowly ate away at his ability to walk and speak coherently and he developed pressure sores from immobility.

He was found dead by emergency staff in a Māngere home, drenched in urine in a room with a bag of soiled clothes and a nest of mice.

Li was charged with manslaughter for failing to provide her husband – deemed a vulnerable adult – with the appropiate medical care, hygeine, food and water between January and October 2016.

The Crown claims Li’s care was “grossly negligent” and not a mild lapse or temporary moment of forgetfulness.

“He was not being rushed to hospital when it was abundantly clear he needed life saving treatment,” Crown prosecutor Jasper Rhodes said.

But her defence lawyer Mark Ryan claims Epenisa’s sores developed quickly, and there was nothing Li could do for the “very, very sick” man.

Li claimed her husband did not want healthcare workers to care for him, and he would yell and scream at her.

The jury has sat through evidence from more than 30 Crown witnesses, which had to be translated line by line into Tongan.

Friends and family spoke of how Epenisa was often found alone without food or water, and the room where he spent his final days had a stench so strong visitors could not breathe.

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