Would-be plane thief found unfit to proceed

  • ARJONA MOLINA

The case involving a 24-year-old Pahoa man accused of trying to steal an airplane in late August at Hilo International Airport has stalled for now.

Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach on Oct. 26 ruled Gabriel Arjona Molina unfit to proceed to trial based on the reports of three mental health professionals, Henry Yang, Andrew Bisset and Paul Beighley. Those reports are not public and sealed by the court.

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Arjona Molina appeared for the court hearing via Zoom from Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, Oahu, where he remains in custody of the state health director.

Laubach scheduled a status hearing on Arjona Molina’s case at 11 a.m. Nov. 23.

Arjona Molina, a Venezuelan national with no prior U.S. felony convictions, is charged with first-degree attempted theft during a declared emergency, first-degree criminal property damage during a declared emergency, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, and second-degree criminal trespassing.

According to police, on Aug. 27, Arjona Molina crashed through an airport fence in a tan 2004 Toyota sedan and tried unsuccessfully to start a fixed-wing single-engine aircraft.

He then allegedly managed to make his way into the cockpit of a Beechcraft King Air C90A air ambulance worth an estimated $1.5 million and start the propellers of both engines.

He deplaned voluntarily without taking off.

Arjona Molina reportedly waived his right to remain silent and told police he always wanted to be a pilot and grew up flying airplanes with his father, a Venezuelan pilot.

He also allegedly told officers he needs to tell everyone he has the cure for cancer.

According to court documents filed by police, Arjona Molina said he was in a “flow state of mind” and would’ve taken the plan if the “flow” told him to do so.

He said all he needed to do was to engage the fuel switch but decided, after seeing the empty co-pilot seat, to not take off because it wasn’t meant to be at that time, documents state.

Attempted first-degree theft and first-degree property damage, the two most serious charges, are Class B felonies that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment upon conviction.

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The finding of unfitness, however, halts proceedings in the case until and unless a court finds Arjona Molina mentally fit and responsible for his actions at the time of the alleged offenses.

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

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