WAILUKU - A 22-year-old Makawao resident who stabbed a man in a restroom at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center last year was acquitted by reason of insanity Friday of the first-degree assault charge.
Instead of facing prison time, Adam Mendoza will be committed to the Department of Health and housed at the Hawaii State Hospital for an "indeterminate" period of time, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Simonds said outside of court. He said that Mendoza is known to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia.
Simonds said that while the state sympathizes with those who suffer from mental health issues, the protection of the public is "still paramount."
Adam Mendoza appears in June during proceedings in 2nd Circuit Court.
Maui News file photo
In the May 20 attack, 21-year-old Timothy Heauser-Caires of Makawao suffered a collapsed left lung from the stab wound to his back. Simonds said that Mendoza's act was "random." Heauser-Caires, who was hospitalized for 13 days, was in the courtroom Friday during the court proceedings before 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo.
"We're happy it's finally over," said the victim's mother, Carolyn Caires, outside of court.
She said that her son still deals with the physical and emotional aftermath from the stabbing. Heauser-Caires has difficulty breathing because of the scar tissue and still suffers pain.
"It's still emotional," Caires added. "We could have lost him."
The victim's father, Eddie Caires, said that he is glad Mendoza is being sent to the state hospital so he can no longer be a danger to the community.
He added that prison wouldn't help Mendoza's mental health issues and could make matters worse.
"It's a much better option," Eddie Caires said of the state hospital.
Simonds agreed and added that being sent to the hospital for treatment is not necessarily a lesser sentence. He said that if Mendoza were sent to prison, he could have served up to 10 years for the first-degree assault charge, but his stay at the hospital could be for life.
Before being released, Mendoza would need to undergo another mental evaluation and go through more court proceedings, Simonds said.
"In many ways, it's potentially a longer sentence than the maximum prison term," he said.
Loo ruled on the case after reading reports by a psychiatrist and psychologists as well as weighing other evidence.
Mendoza has most recently been confined at Maui Community Correctional Center, awaiting the outcome of his criminal case. Now, he will be moved to the state hospital on Oahu.
In a preliminary hearing last year, Heauser-Caires testified that he was washing his hands in a bathroom on the second level of the mall near the Macy's home and men's store around 10:10 a.m. May 20 when it felt as if someone had punched him. He turned and saw Mendoza in a boxing stance holding a knife with the blade pointed down in his right hand.
Mendoza attempted to go toward Heauser-Caires, who grabbed Mendoza's arms and pushed him away.
Heauser-Caires said that before Mendoza attacked him, he had told him: "I thought your shirt said something else."
After being stabbed, Heauser-Caires backed out the door and tried to close it. He then turned and ran down the hallway, grabbed his waiting girlfriend and told her to run.
Mendoza was identified through surveillance video as well as through a photo lineup.
Mendoza was arrested May 26 in the parking lot fronting the Ross store on Kamehameha Avenue.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.