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Mental exam ordered for man accused of stabbing three in Hilo

A judge ordered a mental examination for a 28-year-old man accused in a Hilo stabbing spree a week ago and also ordered the suspect detained without bail.

Hilo District Judge Barbara Takase scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. July 8 for the results of the examinations of Varaha Mims by a panel of three mental health professionals. Mims, a Hilo man with no permanent address, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, three counts of attempted second-degree murder, burglary, property damage and marijuana possession.

Mims is accused of stabbing Skylar Nelson, 28, of Pahoa and his girlfriend, Sarah Steinbrecher, 27, of Hilo outside Hilo Town Tavern on Keawe Street about midnight May 23. The stabbing was apparently at random.

Mims then allegedly fled on foot to Wainaku and stabbed his former landlord, John Giuffre, 49, at Giuffre’s Ohai Street home, mere minutes later. Neighbors said Mims had previously broke into Giuffre’s home after being evicted and also assaulted Giuffre and knocked him unconscious in Puna a week earlier. Police confirmed an alleged attack by Mims on Giuffre in Keaau, but said Giuffre apparently declined to prosecute the assault.

Mims’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa, asked the appointed panel consider only fitness for trial and not penal responsibility, which is state of mind at the time of the alleged offense, capacity to understand wrongfulness of the act and ability to act accordingly.

Takase granted Ebesugawa’s request despite the objection of Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Lee.

“Penal responsibility is really a defense issue as to whether or not the defendant wants to raise those issues in the case, himself,” the judge said. “Fitness needs to be determined before we get to that point. It is proper in this case to grant (the examinations) for fitness only.”

Mims has been in custody since being arrested about seven hours after the stabbing occurred. Lee asked Takase to revoke his bail, describing Mims as a flight risk and a danger to the community with “no place of residence, no job, and no support in the community, except perhaps from a girlfriend.”

“It would pose a grave danger to the community if he were to be put back on the street,” Lee said.

Takase granted the prosecution request despite Ebesugawa’s objection.

“We’re all happy,” said Nelson’s brother, Shane Nelson, about the judge’s decision to detain Mims without bail.

Shane Nelson — who is not the Hilo mixed martial arts fighter of the same name — said his brother remains in critical condition at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu after suffering a puncture wound to the aorta, the body’s largest artery,

“He went through multiple surgeries,” he said. “… I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but for right now he’s in critical condition. He’s still breathing. He possibly has a couple more surgeries (to undergo) but I have no idea exactly how many.”

Shane Nelson acknowledged the role two nurses at the scene played in saving his brother’s life.

“From what I understand, he’s the luckiest kid alive right now,” Shane Nelson said. “His friends and family are waiting for him to come home right now and I pray to God he’s coming home.”

Jessie Aguilar, Nelson’s sister, said the family is “all torn” after the stabbing.

“We’re all broken,” she said. “We can’t believe this has happened to our family and just hope he comes home to his son and the rest of us. It’s a huge family, three brothers and three sisters.”

The family set up a Facebook page — “Justice for Skylar Nelson” — and started an online fundraiser to help defray medical expenses at

At last report, Giuffre remained in stable condition at Hilo Medical Center after sustaining 26 stab wounds and a punctured lung.

Steinbrecher was treated for a wound to her back and released from Hilo Medical Center.

If convicted of attempted first-degree murder — which was charged because there were multiple victims — Mims faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Email John Burnett at


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