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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 13, 2002

Search for girl continues

Family struggles to fathom situation
Child abductions rare in Hawai'i
Classmates search for answers
Pu'uwai Momi residents united in fear, hope and dread
Map of area

By Scott Ishikawa, Mike Gordon and Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writers

Fliers seeking information about 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal, missing since Tuesday, have been posted on fences, buildings and trees in the area around Aloha Stadium, where Honolulu police launched helicopter searches for the girl.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Police last night arrested a 37-year-old parolee for questioning about the Tuesday disappearance of 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal, who was still missing despite an intense police sweep of mountains, streams, hiking trails and surrounding neighborhoods.

Douglas Kruse, also known as Douglas Lee Cruz and Steven Kruse, was arrested shortly after 9 p.m. at the Pu'uwai Momi complex where Kahealani and her family live. He was taken to the main police station on Beretania Street for questioning.

Kruse is a distant relative of the girl's family and is wanted for criminal contempt and felony burglary and theft warrants.

Officer Joe Self of the Honolulu Police Department's Missing Persons Detail earlier yesterday emphasized that Kruse was not a suspect but was seen at the housing complex Tuesday where the girl was last seen before she disappeared.

Kahealani's older sister, Tanya Tumbaga-Mamala, 18, said last night that she knows Kruse and doesn't think he was capable of harming the girl. "He loves her like a daughter," the older sister said.

She said Kruse does not have a car but was visiting the housing complex Tuesday and left at about 10 p.m.

Kahealani, a sixth-grader at 'Aiea Elementary School, was last seen near her Kohomua Street home in the Pu'uwai Momi housing complex around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Self, speaking before last night's arrest, said he didn't believe that Kahealani was a runaway.

"She is a straight-A student at school, she has never run away before," Self said at the police's command center which was set up at the Aloha Stadium parking lot near the Pu'uwai Momi complex.

"My inner feeling is not good," Self said. "We're treating it as a worst-case scenario, but we're hoping for the best."

Self said police have looked into rumors that a man may have picked up the girl in a car Tuesday afternoon but weren't able to substantiate those reports.

Kahealani's father, Vincent Indreginal, 39, was also at the command center and made an emotional appeal for her safe return.

"We'd just like to ask everyone if they see Kahealani or have information to call the police to help find her and bring her home to us," he said, wiping away tears. "I just want to tell Kahealani how much we love her and miss her."

A $10,000 reward is being offered by an anonymous donor for information leading police to Kahealani's safe return, said attorney Michael Green, whose family is related by marriage to the Indreginals.

Police Chief Lee Donohue visited the command center last night and talked to Kahealani's family. "I just want to assure them that we are bringing all the resources that we have into this, and try to locate our girl," he said.

Police said Kahealani was last seen Tuesday afternoon. She and a friend had stepped off a school bus from 'Aiea Elementary outside the housing complex and bought manapua from a lunchwagon, police said. The two girls walked back to the complex and the pair split up when they arrived at the friend's townhome unit. Kahealani never arrived home, police said.

Indreginal said he and Kahealani's mother, Lehua Tumbaga, were at his mother's Wahiawa home Tuesday afternoon and evening when she disappeared. On the way back to Halawa, they stopped at Kmart to pick out a Christmas tree that Kahealani had specifically asked for. Her father said Kahealani had been left in the care of her 17-year-old brother, but the brother thought Kahealani was with her parents.

When the parents returned home about 10 p.m., everyone realized Kahealani was missing, Indreginal said. "After that, we just went crazy looking for her," he said.

But the hour was late, and Indreginal said he was hesitant to knock on every door in the complex. Some of his children did, although not everyone answered.

"I was just hoping that she was at a neighbor's house or at her uncle's house in 'Aiea," he said. "I didn't want to think the worst. I hoped it was a nightmare and I would wake up."

The family did not notify police until 8 a.m. Wednesday. Authorities said the first few hours after a disappearance are critical in finding a missing child.

"Now that I think about it, I should have called police first," Indreginal said. "It might have been better if I did. I just didn't want to think the worst."

On Wednesday morning, police swarmed into the surrounding neighborhoods and interviewed 'Aiea Elementary faculty and students. CrimeStoppers put out a public plea for help and police set up the command center to coordinate the search efforts.

About 40 Honolulu police officers, including members of the Specialized Services Division, and three search dogs fanned out around the Pu'uwai Momi housing area and other neighborhoods.

Police went door-to-door and checked nearby Halawa Stream and numerous manholes, dumpsters and fields for clues. A police helicopter inspected the scene from above, checking the mountains and hiking trails above Halawa Heights.

Kahealani is of Hawaiian and Filipino ancestry, 5 feet 2 and 110 pounds with a slim build. She has brown shoulder-length hair and brown eyes, police said. She was wearing a beige corduroy long-sleeve shirt and beige corduroy pants and had four gold Hawaiian bracelets on each wrist. She was also carrying her schoolbooks in a dark/baby blue Roxy-brand backpack, according to her family.

Anyone with information about the case may call HPD Investigator Phil Camero directly at 529-3394 or CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.