Arson Death Of 85-Year-Old Grandmother Played Role In San Mateo Execution-Style Slaying – CBS San Francisco

SAN MATEO (CBS SF) – The death of an 85-year-old grandmother in a 2019 East Palo home arson fire has been linked to the execution-style slaying of Ueta Savelio Muasika Jr. in 2020, San Mateo police detectives disclosed Tuesday.

Two suspects – 30-year-old Isileli Mahe and 29-year-old John “Talia” Paasi – were arrested on Monday after a lengthy investigation.

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With the assistance of multiple law enforcement agencies, detectives who traveled to North Carolina arrested Paasi outside his home in Charlotte without incident Monday morning.

Also on Monday, San Mateo detectives who traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, along with local and federal authorities, arrested Mahe at his residence. He was also taken into custody without incident.

“This attack was personal, it was targeted,” San Mateo Police Chief Ed Barberini told reporters at a Tuesday morning news conference. “We believe it to be related to the murder of Susan Tonga from a case in 2019 where she died in a fire that was deliberately set.”

Tonga died when a pre-dawn fire erupted at the family home in February of 2019. Firefighters said four people were able to get out before smoke filled the home, but it took them several minutes to realize and tell them their grandmother was still inside.

Three days after the fire, detectives arrested Fifita Tau, who is being held without bail at the San Mateo County Jail on murder charges. Police believe the motivation of the fire was gang-related, but they would not say which two gangs were involved.

“I can not speak to the suspects in this case (Mahe and Paasi) why they thought that (Muasika was involved in the fire),” said San Mateo Police Senior Detective Nick Morsilli. “But we do believe that played a role in the motive of this most current homicide.”

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John Paasi and Isleli Mahe were arrested in connection with the October 30, 2020 murder of Ueta Savelio Muasika Jr. (San Mateo Police)

Both suspects were taken to local jails on charges of murder and assault with a firearm and were awaiting extradition back to San Mateo County, police said.

On October 30, 2020, at approximately 9:40 am, San Mateo Police officers were dispatched to the 1600 block of Eleanor Drive on the report of a shooting. Officers arrived to find Muasika shot several times after being ambushed in the driveway of his residence.

The brazen attack also left Muasika’s two-year-old son suffering from a gunshot wound to his face. Officers rendered aid to the child, and paramedics transported him to a local trauma center. The child has since recovered from his injuries. Muasika succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead on scene.

“Not only were these suspects lying in wait to commit this murder, but they appeared to have carried it out without any concern for public safety, our city or any children present,” Barberini said.

He said Paasi, who has a criminal record, had known Muasika for over 15 years.

Over the last eighteen months, in an effort to bring all responsible parties to justice, SMPD detectives conducted a methodical investigation that extended to multiple states across the country.

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The investigation is still ongoing. Anyone with additional information was asked to contact Detective Sergeant Paul Pak at (650) 522-7660 or Anonymous tips can be submitted to or by calling (650) 522-7676.

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