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By Scott Radway

KOROR, Palau, (Pacific Daily News, ) - A Palau man who told police he had smoked crystal methamphetamine before allegedly killing a missionary pastor, his wife and 11-year-old son with "a large stick" has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Ruimar DePaiva, 42, his wife, Margareth, 37, and son, Larisson, were killed Dec. 22 in their home during an apparent burglary. Their 10-year-old daughter was the only survivor.

Capturing the shock of this tiny, peaceful Pacific nation in the days that followed, Palau President Tommy Remengesau described the murders as "a heinous crime that has never been experienced in the republic before."

According to a court affidavit, Justin Hirosi, 43, told police he had smoked the drug known commonly as "ice" after work and then forcibly entered the DePaiva home to steal a TV and VCR.

But when the DePaivas turned on the lights, Hirosi told police, "he began swinging wildly at the man and the woman with a large stick. He then saw a young boy and he began striking the young boy in the head with the same stick."

Hirosi found the last member of the family, a 10-year-old daughter, as he ransacked the home. Hirosi blindfolded her, stuffed her in the trunk of his car. Later he drove to a secluded roadside, strangled her and left her for dead.

Hirosi was charged with 20 counts, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder, rape, sodomy and child abuse.

"Defendant Justin Hirosi, through counsel, hereby provides notice ... of his intention to rely upon the defense of insanity at the time of the alleged crimes, and to introduce expert testimony relating to a mental disease or defect, or other mental condition of the defendant bearing upon the issue of his guilt," reads the notice before the Palau Supreme Court.

The trial is likely months away. No bail has been set.

Ruimar DePaiva was a pastor for the church and also coordinator of SDA work in Palau. The family was originally from Brazil and had come to serve in Palau in August, 2002.

A state funeral was held Dec. 29 for the family and attended by hundreds of Palauans, many who felt a deep guilt and shame that the missionaries had died in a country they came to help.

The tearful funeral service culminated as the mother of the slain pastor suddenly asked the mother of the alleged killer to join her at the altar. Stunning the audience, Ruth DePaiva forgave.

Ruth DePaiva then told the audience that the abducted, 10-year-old girl, her granddaughter, had vowed to come back to Palau as a missionary one day.

President Remengesau said Ruth DePaiva's act of forgiveness let a tormented Palau begin healing.

"To forgive when the incident is so fresh, it has helped people to look beyond the tragedy and see that we can forgive and live together," he said.

January 6, 2004

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