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Accused Koko Crater attacker diagnosed with mental illness


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A 20-year-old Kalihi man was suffering from a paranoid psychosis when he stabbed two hikers at the top of Koko Crater Trail in February and is therefore not legally responsible for his actions, three court-appointed mental health experts have concluded.

Benjamin Davis is awaiting trial in state court for attempted first-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder. He remains in custody at Oahu Community Correctional Center, unable to post $100,000 bail.

Trial is scheduled for February.

A state judge granted Davis' request earlier this month for a nonjury trial, a move sometimes made in anticipation of an acquittal by reason of insanity. His lawyer said she expects a one-day trial.

Guy Tanaka, 55, of California suffered a single stab wound in his back in the Feb. 1 attack. The other victim, 20-year-old Nicholas Iwamoto of Oahu, suffered multiple stab wounds, including to his head, chest, abdomen and both hands. He also suffered skull and neck fractures, two collapsed lungs and cuts to his left temporal artery and left jugular vein.

Davis told the court- appointed experts he stabbed the hikers because he believed they were working for the government to kill him, according to the experts' reports. Davis said he believed the hikers were working together because both are Japanese.

He said he believed Iwamoto was relaying his position to government sharpshooters on his cellular telephone. Iwamoto told police Davis told him to hang up before he stabbed him and that he accused him of setting him up.

Police said Iwamoto was stabbed approximately 11 times. Then, according to the court reports, Davis said he “;threw him off the mountain.”; Tanaka escaped by running down the trail.

Davis told at least one expert he now believes he was mentally ill at the time of the attacks, and said in court earlier this month he is taking antipsychotic medication.

He said he began hearing voices about a year before the attacks, but they did not bother him. However, the voices worsened the day before the attacks. He said he believed the government was trying to kill him because he was writing and singing rap songs critical of it.

Four days before the attacks, he abruptly broke up with his girlfriend of a year and a half. He said he did that to protect her.

The night before the attacks, he packed his laptop computer, important papers and other items because he did not think they would be safe at home. He also packed a knife in his backpack for protection and headed for Waikiki to get away.

He told his cousin to be careful and his mother to lock the windows and remain indoors.

In Waikiki, he told the experts, he got into a contest with other rap artists and gave his cellular telephone to a homeless man because he believed the government was listening in. He later ran away from the homeless man because he believed the man was working for the government.

The next day, he said, he followed two girls on the bus to Hawaii Kai, then took another bus to Sandy Beach. At the beach he saw kites pointing upward, which, along with voices, told him he needed to go to the top of the mountain as part of a secret-agent test.

He jogged along Kalanianaole Highway, asked a stranger to loan him his bicycle, then discarded his shirt so the bicyclist could not recognize him later. Along the way, he said, he ducked in and out of bushes because he believed the gunshots he heard from the Koko Head Rifle Range were government snipers trying to kill him.

Davis reached the top of the trail wearing only boxer shorts and sneakers. After the attack he said he took off his shorts because he thought they would give away his position. Police found him up a tree naked except for a sneaker on his left foot and a sock on his right.

Two of the three experts, psychiatrist Gene Altman and psychological consultant Alex Lichton, said Davis is a danger to himself and others and should be committed the State Hospital. The third expert, psychologist Marvin Acklin, said Davis' antipsychotic medication has allowed him to adjust to life at OCCC.

On the night of his arrest, Davis tested positive for marijuana use.

Two days later police found him lying on the floor of his cell with a towel around his neck. Three days later he attacked an adult corrections officer at OCCC with a pen when doctors attempted to take a blood sample.

Davis said he was paranoid and “;freaking out for the first few weeks”; in jail until his medication took effect.