By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 25) - A 43-year-old man was charged with murder in the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau yesterday in connection with the deaths of a pastor, his wife and their 11-year-old son in a robbery turned homicide.

Justin Hirosi also is accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and strangling the only surviving member of the family - a 10-year-old girl.

Hirosi is being held without bail.

On Monday, Pastor Ruimar DePaiva, 42, his wife Margareth DePaiva, 37, and their son Larisson DePaiva, were slain at their home in Airai State, Palau. It appeared that they had been bludgeoned and/or stabbed to death, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the Palau court. The victims were found early Tuesday, the affidavit states.

The DePaiva daughter is the only survivor.

The girl is in stable condition but health officials are keeping her at the Palau hospital for observation, Hagime Telei, director of the Bureau of Public Safety at the Ministry of Justice in Palau, said in a phone interview.

"This is the first time we've seen a crime of this magnitude," Telei said. "We are seeking the most severe penalties available under the law."

The DePaiva family was working as missionaries for the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Palau, said Reginald Leach, Seventh-day Adventist treasurer of the Guam Micronesia mission.

Ruimar DePaiva was a pastor for the Koror SDA church and coordinator of the Seventh-day Adventist work in Palau. The family was originally from Brazil and had come to serve in Palau in August of 2002.

"Pastor DePaiva and his family were caring and loving people. This is a real loss to the church in Palau and for all of Micronesia," Leach said.

"Pastor DePaiva was a pastoral leader and innovator. It is a loss for me personally, as well, to lose a friend and colleague so tragically. It is difficult to understand the senseless evil that would precipitate such an act. However, through it all, we know that God is in control. We are confident in his love and care."

Palau's Attorney General Jeffrey Beattie said that Guam's Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola had completed the autopsies on the three victims but had not submitted his report as of yesterday afternoon. Four FBI agents from Guam assisted with the case. Espinola and the FBI agents arrived in Palau Tuesday night.

The girl victim told officers that a man entered their home and tried to steal their TV and VCR early Monday morning, states the affidavit, based in part on Palau investigators' separate interviews with the surviving girl, the defendant and a co-worker of the defendant.

The girl told investigators she woke up and heard her mother screaming and saw a man hitting her with a "big tree stick," the affidavit states. The girl also saw her father and brother lying on the floor, states the affidavit.

The defendant placed the girl in her room and told her not to leave or he would kill her, the affidavit states.

"She stated the guy was asking her where they kept the money and he was rummaging through drawers in the house," states the court document.

The suspect then allegedly placed a rope around the girl's neck, blindfolded her and placed her in the trunk of a dark-colored sedan, the document states. The man took her to his house and put her in a room and said he was leaving to work, the document states.

"The girl was at the house all day and then the man returned and took her in the car again," the document states. "This time, the man tried strangling her neck and then threw her in the road," the affidavit states.

She was found on a road between Airai and Ameliik by two concerned citizens on Tuesday morning, the court document states.

Palau police officers caught Hirosi Tuesday near his home in Airai, Telei said.

"He stated that he and a friend smoked methamphetamine after work on Dec. 21," the affidavit states. "He decided to rob a house he had seen on (Airai)."

At the DePaiva home, the document states, "(Hirosi) saw lights come on and saw a man and woman try to corner him.''

"He began swinging wildly at the man and woman with a large stick he had," the document states. "He then saw a young boy and he began striking the young boy in the head with the same stick," the document adds.

As Hirosi was ransacking the house for items to steal, he heard the man in the house moaning and went to the man and struck him in the head repeatedly, the affidavit states.

"He saw a young girl in the house and he decided to take her and 'finish her off' elsewhere," document states. "He took her to his home and he sexually assaulted her," it adds.

He then allegedly took her to a secluded road, began strangling her and then threw her out of his car, the document states.

Palau's Minister of Justice Michael Joseph Rosenthal said in a phone interview the island nation does not have a death penalty but said that first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

"Life imprisonment is the harshest sentence we have here. It will be sought," Rosenthal said.

December 25, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com


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