A patched Head Hunters gang member who was on electronically monitored bail for his part in a high-profile hotel shooting when he murdered his former partner and her father will spend at least the next two decades in prison.
Mikaere Puata-Chaney, 28, pleaded guilty in March to the fatal shootings of Eliza and Geoffrey Trubuhovich in front of their Glendene home one year ago. He also killed his shared-custody dog during the suburban West Auckland shooting spree, which involved the use of a high-powered semi-automatic rifle that he had hidden in a guitar case.
Justice Rebecca Edwards today ordered him to serve a life sentence for the killings, with a minimum term of imprisonment of 20 and a half years.
He remained expressionless throughout the hearing but turned around and flashed gang signs at a supporter as he was led away to begin serving the sentence.
“Loser!” a supporter of the Trubuhovich family yelled.
Eliza Trubuhovich, 34, a freelance photographer, was formerly an international flight attendant and owned a streetwear store in Auckland. Geoffrey Trubuhovich, 75, was described as a devoted father and “the quintessential Kiwi bloke” - a good-natured prankster who loved classic cars, fixing things around the house, metal detecting and good books.
The courtroom was filled to capacity as Puata-Chaney, wearing a white T-shirt and surrounded by security, sat in the dock. About 20 of his own supporters had arrived at the High Court at Auckland for the hearing, while there were so many supporters of the Trubuhovich family that they were told to also take seats in the jury box. Others stood in the hallway, peering in the open courtroom doors.
Justice Edwards noted that she had read about 50 victim impact statements, although only six were recited in court.
“It is clear to me they are both warm, caring, decent people,” she said of the victims. “They did not deserve to die in such a brutal way.
“You were ruthless, uncompromising and callously indifferent that day.”
‘How could this happen as he had a bracelet on his ankle?’
In a written statement that was read aloud for her, the victims’ mother and wife described the “unbearable pain” and loneliness she continues to endure due to the senseless act of violence.
“She said he had a bad past and she wanted to help him,” the mother recalled of her daughter’s former relationship with the defendant. “Eliza supported him and never did anything to hurt him.”
She recalled flying home from the Philippines after the death of her sister when her name was called over the plane’s intercom and she was met at the airport by police with news of what had happened.
“This was the beginning of my nightmare,” she said. “I was crying and screaming and my whole body was shaking.
“I asked police, ‘How could this happen as he had a bracelet on his ankle?’ He should have been in prison and not on bail. He was not safe to be let out.
“I just kept asking why. He has no conscience.”
Multiple family members said they still live in fear of gang reprisals.
“Now, nowhere in Auckland feels safe,” said Kali Trubuhovich, the victims’ niece and granddaughter, explaining that she had felt it necessary to move out of the city but remains hypervigilant.
“This is something you created and you chose to do.”
Puata-Chaney and Eliza Trubuhovich had been in a relationship for about a year but had been broken up for months, although they kept in contact as they shared custody of Rocka, their dog.
Despite the relationship having ended, Puata-Chaney remained violently jealous that she might be seeing another man, court documents state. The two had argued on the phone for an extended period on Friday, July 15, the day of the shooting.
What happened immediately after the call ended - Puata-Chaney driving 7.5km from his Te Atatu Peninsula home to the Glendene property where his ex lived with her family - was in itself illegal. He was already on electronically monitored bail, restricted from leaving his home without permission as he awaited trial for his part in a high-profile gang warfare shooting inside the lobby of Sofitel, which sent staff of the five-star Auckland waterfront hotel running for cover.
But the blur of violence that followed happened quickly, with Puata-Chaney arriving at the house, opening fire and leaving within a matter of minutes.
He loudly forced open the door of the Trubuhovich home at 2.59pm, attracting the attention of neighbours. He then dragged his ex-partner from the house as she yelled, “No, no, no!”
Puata-Chaney immediately opened fire on Geoffrey Trubuhovich at close range as the father went outside to investigate the noise. He was shot multiple times, including a fatal wound to his heart.
“It seems clear that he was trying to protect his daughter,” Justice Edwards said as she summarised the case.
The defendant then turned the gun on Eliza Trubuhovich, opening fire as she yelled, “Don’t do it. Please don’t do it.”
At some point during the three-minute melee, Rocka the dog was also shot three times and killed.
Puata-Chaney returned home at 3.39pm, 40 minutes after the shooting, and identified himself to the 111 operator.
“I’m f***ed, I’ve done something,” he told the operator. “Send the police.”
Three generations of violence
His guilty plea in March came just 10 days after he had been sentenced to three years and five months’ imprisonment for his part in the April 2021 Sofitel shooting. While he wasn’t the person who pulled the trigger at the hotel - it was fellow Head Hunters gang member Hone Reihana - he was found guilty by a jury of discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm because he aided the shooter.
During that earlier sentencing, a High Court judge noted his lesser role in the shooting and his difficult upbringing. His mother was closely linked to Black Power and his father was a member of the Head Hunters, the judge noted, adding that the defendant left school at age 13 “and instead received an education in violence”.
Puata-Chaney was given a discount at the Sofitel sentencing for his difficult upbringing immersed in gangs.
“This is not that,” Crown prosecutor Alysha McClintock said today of the current case. “This is extreme domestic violence by someone who also was a gang member.”
McClintock asked for a life sentence with a minimum term of imprisonment starting point of 27 years.
“There’s clearly callousness and cruelty in the offending,” she said, recounting how Eliza Trubuhovich had been shot multiple times in the back while seemingly on the ground. “They had been at home minding their own business in the middle of the afternoon.”
Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield, KC, sought a 21-year minimum term of imprisonment starting point.
Mansfield said his client is an addict who was suffering methamphetamine-induced psychosis during the shootings. His “terrible” actions that day were abnormal, shocking those who know him, he said.
“He is not a man this is truly evil,” the lawyer said. “He is not a man from whom the community needs to be protected. He is a man who needs help.”
West Auckland Māori adviser Novi Marikena, who said he has known the defendant’s parents since they were teenagers, said Makaere is a third generation gang member.
He described the defendant as a formerly bright student with “amazing leadership qualities” who lost his way after leaving a Māori immersion school he had been enrolled in as a child.
“We failed Makaere,” he said. “We didn’t follow up after he left our care. He was doing extremely well.”
‘Flicker of hope’
Justice Edwards agreed today that Puata-Chaney was brought up in deprivation. After dropping out, his school became the gang headquarters, she said.
“Extreme violence is the only thing you have known in your life. There was no way for you to avoid it,” she said. “But that does not relieve you of responsibility. You still retained the power of choice.”
The judge agreed to a starting point minimum period of imprisonment of 23 years with a modest discount of six months for his background factors cancelled out by an uplift of six months for having offended while on bail.
She declined to uplift the minimum period further because of the sentence he is already serving or to apply further discounts for his drug addiction. What he did was not the same as someone caught selling drugs to feed their own addiction, which is how the discount is usually applied, she said.
But he did deserve a further six-month discount for remorse and a one-year discount for his guilty pleas, resulting in the end minimum period of imprisonment sentence of 20 and a half years.
“My sense is that you are still coming to terms with the magnitude of what you have done and it torments you,” she said. “There is a flicker of hope in the expression of remorse. You will need to nourish that flicker in the coming years.”
After today’s hearing ended, the Trubuhovich family thanked members of the criminal justice system and others who have “offered assistance, prayer, support or just stopped by to give us hugs and comfort” over the past year.
“Finally, we reached the verdict he deserved,” the family said. “We have been amazed and overwhelmed by the beautiful outpouring of love, big support and kindness. We are utterly devastated and dismal after the loss of our two cherished loved ones.
“Our lives will never be the same but what happened has brought everyone together and made us stronger. Their love and memories live on in the lives they touched.”
Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand.