Suspect in stabbings found unfit to stand trial

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A 29-year-old man accused of stabbing three people 11 months ago in Hilo has been found unfit to stand trial, a decision that stunned one of the victims and the mothers of the other two victims.

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A 29-year-old man accused of stabbing three people 11 months ago in Hilo has been found unfit to stand trial, a decision that stunned one of the victims and the mothers of the other two victims.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara on Thursday ordered Varaha Mims committed to the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, Oahu. He also set a hearing to review Mims’ fitness status for 8:30 a.m. on June 30.

Mims is charged with attempted first-degree murder, three counts of attempted second-degree murder, marijuana possession and property damage. Mims is accused of going on a rampage on May 23 and stabbing 28-year-old Skylar Nelson and 27-year-old Sarah Steinbrecher outside Hilo Town Tavern. He then allegedly fled on foot to Wainaku and stabbed his former landlord, 49-year-old Raghunatha John Giuffre.

Both Nelson and Giuffre were hospitalized with critical injuries but have since recovered. Steinbrecher was treated for her wounds and released.

In separate hearings that took place over a period of several months, psychologist Dr. Andrew Bisset and psychologist Dr. Marvin Acklin testified that Mims was unfit to proceed. Another psychologist, Dr. Andrew Lichton, said he couldn’t form an opinion on Mims’ fitness. Both Acklin and Lichton testified they thought Mims was malingering, meaning either the feigning or exaggeration of symptoms of mental illness. Hara said his opinion was “based on the written opinion and the testimony of Dr. Bisset.”

The judge also noted Acklin’s opinion.

“He states as to the fitness issue, quote, ‘Although malingering cannot be ruled out, a definitive opinion concerning Mr. Mims’ capacity to stand trial is not possible. It is most likely the case that Mr. Mims is not fit to proceed,’” Hara said. “I take that to mean that he finds by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Mims is not fit to proceed, based on psychiatric and psychological probabilities.”

Hara said Lichton was “persuasive about his opinions as to Mr. Mims’ malingering.”

“What bothers the court, however, is that if that is so, then his opinion should have been that he (Mims) was fit to proceed,” he said.

The mothers of two of the victims shed tears outside the courtroom following the decision.

“How would he (Hara) like to have two doors broken down and stabbed?” Jagaddhatri Jean Prem, Giuffre’s mother, asked rhetorically between sobs. “… It’s horrible. It’s just terrible. He (Mims) knows exactly where I live. Our whole community is petrified of this guy.”

“I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it,” Vicki Hobbs-Nelson, Nelson’s mother, added tearfully.

Steinbrecher, the only victim at the hearing, expressed outrage that “this stranger, this California guy” came to Hilo and attacked local community members.

“He tried to murder three people,” she said. “… We should see justice, not just for ourselves, but for the benefit of Hawaii and for Hawaii Island. We feel that justice … is not being served right now.”

Steinbrecher noted the decision finding Mims unfit occurred 11 months to the day after the stabbings.

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“I’m really disappointed that it’s taken this long and it really hasn’t gotten anywhere,” she said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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