Death of 85-Year-Old Grandmother Sparks Retaliation Slaying: Authorities

San Mateo police arrested two men Monday in what authorities suspect was a murder committed to avenge the 2019 arson that claimed the life of the grandmother of one of the suspects.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned the case originated with the death of 85-year-old grandmother Susana Tonga, who died in a fire in February 2019 at her home on South Humboldt Street in San Mateo. Authorities arrested Fifita Tau, 28, who was sentenced this month to 40-years-to-life in prison for first degree murder in Tonga’s death.

Tau was in custody in 2020, authorities say, when Tonga’s grandson, John “Talia” Paasi, 29, and another man, Isleli Mahe, 30, allegedly sought revenge against Tau’s family.

That’s when authorities say the duo targeted a Tau relative, Ueta Savelio Muasika Jr., outside his home on Oct. 30, 2020, wounding Muasika’s 2-year-old son in the face.

On Monday, San Mateo police arrested Paasi outside his Charlotte, North Carolina home. Mahe was arrested in Honolulu Hawaii.

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