By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 20-year-old Leilani Estates man was seriously wounded after being shot in the chest by a spear gun during a confrontation in the lower Puna subdivision late Tuesday night.
Police arrested 49-year-old Georg Robert Curnutt on suspicion of attempted second-degree murder following the incident, which occurred at about 10:15 p.m. He was being held in the Hilo police cellblock and had not been charged as of press time Wednesday evening.
“This is still a hot case; we’re still following up on leads. In fact, we’ve got guys out there on a (search) warrant right now,” Lt. Greg Esteban of the Hilo Criminal Investigations Section said early Wednesday evening. “… We recovered a device that can be used to discharge a spear.” Esteban added that tests needed to be done to determine if it was the weapon used in the shooting.
The property’s owner, Tim Sullivan, said the victim is his son, William Sullivan, who’s studying to be a firefighter at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Police said in a written statement on Wednesday afternoon that the younger Sullivan was originally listed in critical surgery at Hilo Medical Center.
“They had to open him up,” Tim Sullivan said Wednesday afternoon. “It (the spear) went through the bag you got around your heart, went through his lungs, nicked his liver, his kidney, (and) came out his back. A half-inch more higher and it would have gone through his heart.”
Esteban said early Wednesday evening that William Sullivan’s condition had improved to “serious but stable.” He described the young man as “very fortunate.”
The elder Sullivan said that Curnutt lives in a rental behind the Sullivan family’s Leilani Avenue home and that the confrontation took place there after Curnutt “came home drunk or something” and caused a commotion.
“Me and my son went back there to see what was up. It was in the dark and it seemed like he had a stick in his hand and we were 20, 30 feet away from him and said, ‘Oh man, calm down. Calm down.’ All of a sudden, my son turns to me and he’s got a three-foot spear stickin’ out of him,” Tim Sullivan said. “I went back there because the dogs were barkin’. I had the flashlight on and he (Curnutt) said, ‘Turn the (expletive) flashlight off me!’ And I said, ‘Who is that?’”
“I’d never heard him talk like that before,” Sullivan said, imitating a drunken growl.
Curnutt’s home is a broken-down bus, according to the caption of a photograph he posted online, which proclaimed: “Renting a dead bus in the jungle of Leilani Estates, Big Island Hawaii. Could be worse.” The photo didn’t show the bus itself, just an interior shot of a computer workstation.
Sullivan said that Curnutt, who had lived on his property for “a couple of months,” was usually “as quiet as a mouse,” but that he became disorderly due to his apparent intoxication.
“He wanted to box with me and then went back to the house and was screamin’ and hollerin’,” he said. “I don’t know what he was on last night, but it was makin’ him crazy.”
Esteban said only that there was a “physical confrontation that precipitated the event.”
Police said in the written statement that during the confrontation, a 61-year-old woman “sustained a non-life-threatening injury to her lower leg … after being struck by a large rock.” The woman was treated and released at Hilo Medical Center. Sullivan identified her as Karen Pytel, Curnutt’s girlfriend.
“I guess he got into it with his old lady and threw some big rock at her,” Sullivan said.
“The dad of the victim assisted (Fire Department medics) in trying to stop the bleeding,” he said.
Sullivan said his son would be in the hospital “for awhile.” Asked if the prognosis was for a recovery, the elder Sullivan replied: “I hope so. … He got a huge scar up and down his middle and on his back. I don’t know.”
“It was kind of a weird thing,” Sullivan said. “When I was sittin’ there, holdin’ on to the spear so it wouldn’t move and he was sittin’ in a plastic chair, I could feel his heart beat in that spear, and I went, ‘Oh my God, it’s in his heart.’ Thank God it wasn’t.”
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is asked to contact Detective Fetuutuunai Amuimuia at 961-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Detective Todd Pataray at 961-2382 or email@example.com. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.