Escapee Higa gets his day in court


One of two men who escaped from Hawaii Community Correctional Center last Wednesday allegedly choked an unarmed, 63-year-old guard while the other punched the victim and stole his keys to the facility, according to court documents.

Affidavits filed by police state that 35-year-old Jarvis Naoki Higa “grabbed the victim, Corrections Officer Roberto Paulino, … around the neck and forced him into the outside bathroom at the law library on the facility grounds.”

The other inmate, 31-year-old Ryan James Jeffries-Hamar, “punched Paulino several times causing pain and swelling to the victim’s left lower eye area and neck area,” while Higa choked the jail guard in the bathroom, documents state.

Paulino was treated for his injuries at Hilo Medical Center and released.

According to the documents, Jeffries-Hamar took car keys belonging to HCCC’s law librarian, Wendy Osborne, and the pair “forcibly kicked open a gate” leading from the HCCC law library to the parking lot — causing more than $1,000 in damage — before stealing Osborne’s 2004 Toyota Corolla to make their escape. The car was later found ditched at the mauka end of Kukuau Street in the Sunrise Ridge subdivision in Hilo.

A massive manhunt was staged, and police arrested Higa Friday night at 92-9176 Paradise Parkway in Ocean View after receiving a public tip that he would be at a home in the remote Ka‘u community. Jeffries-Hamar was still at large as of press time Monday evening.

“We’re still looking for him,” said Hawaii Police Capt. Robert Wagner. He added that police are “following up” on leads they receive. Wagner said that while Jeffries-Hamar’s whereabouts are unknown, his last known location was “on the west side” of the island.

Police consider Jeffries-Hamar, who also escaped in August from Hale Nani Correctional Facility, dangerous. They urge the public to not approach him and to immediately call 911 if they see him.

Higa made appearances in both Hilo District and Circuit courts on Monday. He entered not guilty pleas to charges of first-degree escape, kidnapping, second-degree assault, second-degree robbery, auto theft and third-degree criminal property damage. A preliminary hearing was set for this afternoon at 2 p.m.

Higa also requested and was granted a delay in his trial on an attempted murder charge for allegedly shooting at a man and missing in July in Keaukaha.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara scheduled the attempted murder trial for 8:30 a.m. April 15.

In addition to state sheriff’s deputies, Higa was accompanied in court by plainclothes police officers.

Hilo District Judge David Kuwahara denied a request by Higa’s court-appointed attorney, Christopher Bridges, to set bail in his escape case.

“It looks like he represents a serious risk that he will flee and that he poses a danger to the community,” Kuwahara said.

Higa’s mother, Lena Higa, was in court. She declined to answer questions afterward, but said she wanted to “thank those who have been praying for” her son.

Higa’s former girlfriend, Shirene Jarneski, filed for a temporary restraining order against Higa on Thursday, a day after he and Jeffries-Hamar allegedly fled the Hilo jail, seeking protection for herself and her two minor children, who were not fathered by Higa.

In her petition, Jarneski wrote that during Higa’s incarceration, “he has threatened me and my children’s lives repeatedly through phone calls.”

She also stated that Higa had called her a week prior to her TRO petition “telling me he’s coming for me and the children, swearing and threatening our lives.”

In open court on Monday, Deputy Prosecutor Jefferson Malate said that Higa has “three convictions for violating an order of protection.”

Hilo Family Court Judge Anthony Bartholomew granted Jarneski a 180-day protective order and scheduled a TRO hearing for Dec. 18.