Hilo man pleads guilty in carjacking case


A 32-year-old Hilo man who head-butted a man in Wainaku, carjacked a vehicle and set off a manhunt that closed Mauna Kea to visitors a year ago has pleaded guilty to numerous charges.

Jeremy Todd Rios pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree assault, terroristic threatening, unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle, auto theft, two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, resisting an order to stop, driving while license suspended, and fourth-degree theft. A second-degree robbery charge and another theft charge were dropped.

Third Circuit Court Judge Glenn Hara set sentencing for 9 a.m. Oct. 14. Rios is in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $61,000 bail.

According to police, at about 7:40 a.m. July 30, 2013, officers responded to reports of a man flashing a firearm from a black Honda sedan while driving on Kinoole Street in Hilo. Officers reportedly spotted the car in a parking lot on Kinoole near Kahaopea Street. The driver of the car sped away toward downtown Hilo on Kinoole, then turned right on Ohea and broadsided a pickup truck at the corner of Ohea and Kilauea.

The driver of the Honda then got out of the black Honda and into the passenger seat of a white Honda Accord that was stopped in traffic because of the collision. The driver of the white Honda, identified in court documents as Christine Gumbs, reportedly told police the man said “they’re trying to kill me” several times.

Gumbs told police she got out of the car because she was afraid the man would hurt or kill her, documents state.

Police say Rios, who was identified by Gumbs from photos, drove away in Gumbs’ car after striking another vehicle in traffic.

Rios ditched the stolen car near the Mauna Kea Visitors Center, and police blocked visitor access to Mauna Kea Access Road at about noon as they searched for him by foot and helicopter.

He was arrested at about 6:30 p.m. after walking out of a field.

The assault and terroristic threatening charges stem from an incident that occurred in Wainaku shortly before the carjacking. A 55-year-old man, identified in court documents as Floyd Sale, told police that Rios head-butted him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Sale told police Rios said “I’ll be back to finish you off” as he left.

Documents state Sale suffered a nasal fracture and a broken rib.

Hara asked Rios to tell him what happened and Rios read from a document handed to him by attorney Stanton Oshiro.

“I admit that on July 30, 2013 … I was involved in a fight with Floyd Sale and inflicted substantial bodily injury to him, as well as threatening to do the same, that I used Christine Gumbs’ vehicle without her express consent or permission, and removed the items (keys and a hoodie) … without her permission and with the intent to permanently deprive her of those items.”

Rios also admitted to causing the two traffic collisions, fleeing the scene and ignoring a police order to stop.

Rios, a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal record, is also charged with felony probation violation. Under terms of his plea deal, he’ll be sentenced to five years for the carjacking and assault and faces another possible five-year term for violating his probation.

The defense is free to argue the carjacking and probation sentences should run concurrently, while the state can request the carjacking sentence begin after he serves his sentence for violating probation.

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