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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 6, 2002

Six arrested in murder

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Police arrested six men yesterday in connection with the murder of a 37-year-old Kapahulu woman who had disappeared 2 1/2 months ago and whose body was found Tuesday night in a shallow grave above Makakilo.

Tracey Mieko Tominaga: hotel worker missing since Jan. 20.
Advertiser library photo

Four of the suspects were arrested yesterday afternoon and two more last night. Police Lt. Bill Kato, a homicide investigator, said five of the men were in their 20s and one in his late 40s.

The body of Tracey Mieko Tominaga was found fully clothed and buried on Palehua Ridge, five to six miles above Makakilo.

The discovery of Tominaga's body ended a massive search for the missing Hilton Hawaiian Hotel worker and Pearl City High School graduate who was last seen on Jan. 20.

Tominaga died of manual strangulation and suffocation, and was positively identified yesterday using dental records, the city medical examiner said.

Kato said the six men were arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder, kidnapping and hindering prosecution. No charges have been filed.

"It's fair to say all participated in the murder in some way," said Kato, who declined to discuss the motive of the killing. He said more arrests may be made.

"There may be more tomorrow or the next day, but these are the main guys and we're pretty much done for the night," Kato said.

Police pieced together the case with tips, evidence from Tominaga's Kapahulu home and interviews, Kato said.

The murder investigation started almost immediately after Tominaga was reported missing on Jan. 25, Kato said. Tominaga was very reliable and always stayed in touch with family and friends, so when she failed to return calls and didn't pick up her hotel paycheck, police became very concerned and assembled a homicide team, Kato said.

Kato said police had the murder case nearly finished, but lacked the final piece of evidence: Tominaga's body. When a caller told police where to find the body and the body was identified as Tominaga's, police started arresting the suspects, Kato said.

Yesterday, Tominaga's family struggled to cope with her murder.

"My greatest fear was realized," said Tominaga's mother, Betty Tominaga. "We were hoping for her safe return, but as time went on, we toyed with the idea that something may have happened. But when you come face-to-face with it, it just hits you."

Police were examining several different scenarios yesterday, including one that involved a Nov. 10 Kapahulu shooting that Tracey Tominaga may have witnessed. Tominaga's childhood friend was arrested in connection with that shooting on Jan. 7, just 13 days before Tominaga was last seen. Police said that shooting may have been drug-related.

Kato said Tominaga's Jan. 20 disappearance raised red flags.

Kato said Tominaga's friend David A. Harraway, 32, was arrested and charged in a Nov. 10 shooting on Brokaw Street in which a 26-year-old woman lost her left eye.

"Some guys came over and it looked like there was going to be a drug ripoff," Kato said. "... (Harraway) came running out with a gun, chased them down the street, fired into the car and hit the girl in the eye. She lost her eye."

According to court documents, the 26-year-old woman had accompanied her boyfriend to Harraway's home on Brokaw Street, where the boyfriend planned to collect rent money from women who also lived there. An argument broke out, and Harraway came from the kitchen area carrying a shotgun.

The boyfriend ran toward his car and heard shots fired, according to court records. When his companions picked him up in the car, he discovered his girlfriend had been shot in the face, an injury that caused her to lose her left eye.

Betty Tominaga said her daughter and Harraway grew up together, parted ways, and then got together again with help from a mutual friend. The mother understood that her daughter and Harraway were involved in a "friend-friend kind of thing," rather than a "boyfriend-girlfriend thing."

Tominaga said her daughter was at the scene of the shooting and she wasn't sure if her daughter saw anything.

Tracey Tominaga was last seen at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 20 by a friend, police said.

Later that morning, a friend called Tominaga at about 10 a.m., but Tominaga wasn't there when the friend arrived two hours later.

Another friend found a plate of half-eaten food in Tominaga's room when she came looking for her four days later, and found Tominaga's locked car parked in front of the house on Brokaw Street. The friend called police.

Inside the car was a note believed to be written by Tominaga that said if anything happened to her, there should be retaliation, her mother said.

Kato said Tominaga's body was found after a tipster called a homicide detective and told police the location.

In the meantime, Tominaga's mother said her family was left heartbroken.

"We're trying to hold up the best we can," Betty Tominaga said. "We're going to go down this afternoon to make funeral arrangements. Our pastor is coming over to talk to us in a few minutes. That should help us through this hard time."