Hawaii Judge Finds Woman Not Guilty Of Driving Off A Cliff And Killing Her Twin

The Hana Highway in Maui is a popular Hawaiian tourist attraction. Lush scenery and multiple waterfalls dot the road that connects Kahului with Hana.

While it's only about 52 miles from Kahului to Hana, it takes roughly 2.5 hours to make that trip without stopping.

The highway, and it's not a highway in the traditional sense, is very narrow and very winding.

There are multiple guidebooks that alert tourists where to stop along the way and offer tips and checklists.

But witnesses along the road say that Alexandria Duval and her identical twin sister Anastasia Duval were fighting over control of the steering wheel while maneuvering along the sometimes treacherous road.

The Associated Press reports authorities described the May 2016 crash as a "hair-pulling fight" over the steering wheel.

"Authorities said Alexandria was behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer when witnesses saw the sisters arguing on the perilously narrow, twisting route along a scenic stretch of coastline. A witness cleaning a family gravesite on the highway shoulder told police that he heard a woman screaming in the vehicle and that the passenger was pulling the driver's hair and the steering wheel."

The SUV plunged 200 feet over a cliff.

Anastasia, who was in the passenger seat, was killed, and her sister Alexandria was arrested. A judge later ordered Alexandria released after finding no probable cause for a murder charge.

Months later, a grand jury in Hawaii indicted her and authorities arrested her in Albany, N.Y.

The murder trial began Monday, and Alexandria Duval, 39, chose to have a judge hear the case instead of a jury.

During his opening statement, defense attorney Birney Bervar said the crash was a tragic accident.

Throughout the proceedings witnesses testified that they saw the two women fighting. Duval did not testify.

On Thursday, Second Circuit Judge Peter Cahill found Duval not guilty of murder.

"I'm disappointed," Maui County Prosecuting Attorney J.D. Kim told The Associated Press after the verdict. "The facts clearly show it was at least reckless behavior."

After the verdict was read, The Maui News reports defense attorney Bervar said Duval was "very relieved":

"It's been an extremely emotional ordeal for her. You can't imagine losing your twin sister in that kind of catastrophic, tragic accident, then being charged with causing the death of your sister, which she didn't. She's extremely relieved.

"The judge made the correct verdict in this case."

Alexandria Duval left the courtroom without commenting.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.