Sara Tufele, who has a child with one of Miske’s former top associates, testified that she felt threatened after her boyfriend began cooperating with authorities.

A woman who was in a romantic relationship with Wayne Miller, one of Michael Miske’s former top associates, told jurors Monday that she at one point feared for her life after Miller was arrested and started cooperating with authorities.

Sara Tufele, who has a child with Miller, was the first witness called as the trial resumed after a week of recess due to a juror’s illness. The trial was delayed by about three hours Monday morning because a juror from a neighbor island missed their flight.

Tufele said that after Miller was arrested on drug, weapons and kidnapping charges in 2018, Miske began messaging her on WhatsApp and asking if she thought Miller was going to cooperate with investigators and give up information about him.

Miske, Defense attorney, Lynne Panagakos
Michael Miske defense attorney Lynn Panagakos cross-examined Sara Tufele, who had a romantic relationship with one of Miske’s former top associates. Tufele testified that Miske sent a threatening text message after he suspected Miller was cooperating with authorities. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2024)

“I’ve been a good friend to him, and I hope they don’t turn him against me. It would break my heart,” one text Miske sent to Tufele in November 2018 read, according to transcripts shown to the jury. 

Tufele said she later learned that Miller was cooperating with authorities, but she didn’t tell Miske. When Miske started to suspect Miller had an arrangement with investigators, he texted Tufele a photo of a floral wreath she and Miller had purchased for the funeral of Miske’s son, Caleb, who died in 2016 after a car crash.

She didn’t take the photo as a threat at first, but Miller did and said it made him worried about the safety of her and their son. She said she considered leaving Hawaii but ultimately decided to stay.

Tufele said Miske and his half-brother, John Stancil, who entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors hours before the trial began in January, were Miller’s closest friends. She said they would all often have dinner together, visit each other’s homes and ride jet skis in Maunalua Bay. 

Miller developed an addiction to oxycodone after undergoing heart surgery in 2016 to replace his aorta, she said. She learned about his addiction when she realized he wasn’t paying his bills and started receiving delinquent loan statements. 

Miller, who was on the witness stand from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, was questioned repeatedly about his oxycodone use and told the jury he was at one point spending $2,000 a day on pills.

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Miller entered into a plea deal in 2020 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

Miske is under a 22-count indictment, with charges including murder in aid of racketeering and murder-for-hire conspiracy resulting in death, both of which carry mandatory minimum life sentences upon conviction. He has is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu. 

Cross-examination of Tufele is scheduled to continue on Tuesday. 

Miske’s trial was originally expected to last four to six months but could be shorter now that Miske is standing trial alone. All of his 11 former co-defendants have pleaded guilty.

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