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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 13, 2002

Child abductions rare in Hawai'i

Search for girl continues
Family struggles to fathom situation
Classmates search for answers
Pu'uwai Momi residents united in fear, hope and dread

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

What parents can do

• Call police if you think your child is missing. National statistics show that 74 percent of children who are murdered during an abduction are killed within the first three hours. "Even if you don't believe your child's been abducted, you need to be sure and you need to get the police involved," said Carol Hee, coordinator of the Missing Child Center-Hawai'i.

• Be aware of your child's friends and routines. Maintain communication with spouses and children.

• Teach children important telephone numbers and where to go in case of an emergency.

• Don't focus on teaching children not to talk to strangers. "Stranger" is not a concept that young children can easily understand. Instead, teach them to look for threatening behaviors and situations.

For pamphlets and other information, call the Missing Child Center-Hawai'i at 586-1449 or access the organization's Web site at http://launch.hgea.org/hsc/.

Source: Missing Child Center-Hawai'i and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Children in Hawai'i don't often disappear under mysterious circumstances, but when they do the record is sometimes scarred with violence.

Because states report data differently, it's difficult to rank Hawai'i's rate of missing or abducted children with the rest of the country. Anecdotally, however, experts say it appears to be lower.

"My perspective is that because of geographical location and cultural differences, we don't have as serious a problem as they do on the Mainland," said Carol Hee, coordinator of the Missing Child Center-Hawai'i. "Some of it is that on the Mainland somebody can pick up a child and be anywhere. It's a little bit more difficult here."

Nationally, 203,900 children were abducted by family members in 1999 and another 58,200 were taken by non-family members, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Runaways make up the largest number of missing children each year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, followed by family abductions and lost or injured children.

Before 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal disappeared on Tuesday, Hawai'i's last high-profile missing child case occurred more than a decade ago.

On Feb. 11, 1988, 12-year-old Jiezhao Li was selling benefit chili tickets near the 7-Eleven store on Nu'uanu Avenue and North Kuakini near her home. She was never seen again.

Hawai'i's last stranger abduction involved a 5-year-old girl in 1995 who was dragged away from a manapua truck outside her Waipahu home by a woman with a history of drug and mental problems. The girl was taken two blocks away to a supermarket, where she saw a family friend, called out for help and was later reunited with her mother.

Other high-profile child disappearances in the state remain unsolved.

"Peter Boy" Kema Jr. was a 6-year-old Big Island boy who had been the victim of child abuse before he was last seen in August 1997. Peter Boy's body has never been found, and his parents have not always cooperated with authorities.

And at least a half-dozen local missing child cases have had gruesome endings:

• Aleisea "Lacy" Woolsey Ruf, age 4, had been camping with her mother at 'Anini Beach Park on Kaua'i's north shore on July 27, 1993, when she was abducted, sexually assaulted and drowned.

• Maile L. Gilbert, a 6-year-old first-grader at 'Aikahi Elementary School, was abducted from a Kailua home during a family party on Aug. 25, 1985, by a 24-year-old laborer from Ka'a'awa. She was raped, sodomized, choked and drowned. Her body was discovered the following day in a shallow shoreline grave between Mokule'ia and Ka'ena Point on the northwest corner of O'ahu.

The Honolulu Police Department's version of the "Amber Alert" program — to warn the public in the event of a child abduction — kicks off Dec. 20 and is named the MAILE Alert after Maile. It's an acronym for Minor Abducted In Life-Threatening Emergency.

• Roiti Dias, 8, was kidnapped in Halawa while walking to school May 27, 1980, and later found dead with her throat slashed in a culvert near Waimea Beach Park.

• Margie Hauanio, 16, was beaten to death and her body found in a Waipahu pineapple field near Crestview on Nov. 17, 1975.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.