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Mental exam for Hilo robbery suspect

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Elijah Lopez appears Wednesday in Hilo District Court.

A 21-year-old Hilo man accused of violently robbing a 67-year-old homeless man will undergo a court-ordered mental examination.

Elijah Lopez is charged with first-degree robbery, second-degree assault and fourth-degree theft for the early Monday morning incident that occurred in the box office alcove of the Palace Theater on Haili Street in downtown Hilo.

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Lopez was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Thursday, but Deputy Public Defender Jeffrey Ng requested the examination by a panel of three mental health professionals, which was granted by Hilo District Judge Harry Freitas.

Freitas scheduled a hearing on the examiners’ reports for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 18.

According to court documents filed by police, the alleged victim, Michael Hayden, told officers he was about to fall asleep when he was struck in the head with a hard object, causing a laceration about 2 inches long, and later noticed his black fanny pack was missing.

A sizable pool of blood remained in the alcove until Palace employees cleaned it up later in the morning.

Hayden, who was treated and released at Hilo Medical Center, was unable to identify his alleged assailant or the weapon used.

A witness, however, told police she heard a loud “whack” and a man yelling, and then saw a man she knew as “Elijah” fleeing the area. The witness identified Lopez from a photographic lineup, police said.

Surveillance video from a nearby business establishment showed a man fitting Lopez’s description picking up what appeared to be a large rock from an alleyway, entering the alcove, and then fleeing with several bags and items he wasn’t previously carrying, according to documents.

Lopez was taken into custody without incident Tuesday morning.

At Lopez’s initial court appearance on Wednesday, Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach denied Lopez’s request for supervised release and maintained his $12,250 bail after Deputy Prosecutor Jared Auna said the record showed Lopez had six convictions for contempt of court and two for failure to appear, and noted “a long history of nonappearance.”

Laubach scheduled the Thursday preliminary hearing and asked Lopez if he understood.

“No, I don’t understand why,” Lopez replied, visibly irked. He then began grumbling, profanities included, in a lower tone of voice.

That caused Deputy Public Defender Austin Hsu to switch off the defense table microphone and talk to Lopez.

As he was being escorted from the courtroom to a holding cell by a sheriff’s deputy, Lopez continued his low-volume rant, which included at least four “f-bombs.”

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First-degree robbery is a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment upon conviction. Second-degree assault is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years behind bars. Fourth-degree theft is a petty misdemeanor carrying a maximum 30-day jail term.

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