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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 13, 2002

Pu'uwai Momi residents united in fear, hope and dread

Search for girl continues
Family struggles to fathom situation
Child abductions rare in Hawai'i
Classmates search for answers

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

The 'ohana of Pu'uwai Momi is coming together to hanai their missing child — slender, jewelry-bedecked 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal.

Her disappearance Tuesday had friends praying with her family, children passing out leaflets bearing her bright-eyed image, and mothers guarding the rest of the keiki in this low-income housing community of nearly 1,000 between Pearl Harbor and Aloha Stadium.

"Catch the guy, catch the guy," schoolchildren yelled yesterday in the direction of a police command post off Salt Lake Boulevard. They rode their school bus to the same stop where Kahealani stepped off Tuesday afternoon a few minutes before she disappeared.

After Kahealani got off the bus, she went to one of the 260 sunbaked pinkish concrete-block apartment units scattered among the palms and monkeypods, got some money for an after-school snack, and came back to the manapua van.

She disappeared minutes later.

Yesterday, as police nearby searched big blue Horizon Waste Services garbage dumpsters and storm drains for the missing girl, there were a few more parents than usual at the bus stop to greet their children.

"I am going to take my lunch hour at 2:45 p.m. every day until they catch this nut," said Kealoha Tauaefa, a retail clerk who was at the stop to meet each of her five children.

"I feel disgusted. I feel terrible for this family," said Tauaefa. "This is our back yard, and everyone is just shocked. We are locking our doors, and none of my children is going out alone to take out the trash or pick up the mail."

Down the street, Elizabeth "La" Cottrell trudged toward Salt Lake Boulevard with another bundle of the posters she had been passing out to motorists all day.

"I feel like both arms are tied behind my back, helpless to do anything," Cottrell said, looking over a nearby empty lot with anxious eyes as if expecting to see the missing girl somewhere in the high grass and shrubs.

"Kahealani's mother was kind of hanai to my son, Hawaiian-style, so I feel I am part of the family," Cottrell said. "And everybody in here is coming together to help."

Three buses stopped and disgorged crowds of giggling and roughhousing students near the blue-and-white manapua van.

They gathered in little knots to look at the new posters on the sign outside the project, or stare at the television crews that came to chronicle the story of the disappearance.

Most crowded around reporters to ask what was new, or to tell their stories about Kahealani.

Amanda Blades-Serrao, 11, said it was sad that Kahealani was missing just before Christmas — a season marked in the state housing project by occasional strands of lights stretched over apartment railings, and a lonely cardboard snowman broiling in the afternoon sun.

"But," said Amanda's 13-year-old sister, Joslyn, "that means it will be an even happier Christmas when she comes home."

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.