By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
KANE'OHE — Yesterday on the 20th anniversary of 6-year-old Maile Gilbert's kidnapping and murder, the statewide Maile Amber Alert was tested on Maui.
"Every time there's a missing child, Maile is missing again for us," said Maile's father, Tip Gilbert, as he prepared to visit his daughter's memorial on Coconut Island.
Gilbert said he remembers trying 20 years ago to find a way to alert people and get their help. He said he called radio hosts Larry Price and Michael W. Perry to get their "posse" involved.
Maile was abducted during a family party on Aug. 25, 1985. Her body was found the next day in a shallow grave near Ka'ena Point. Her killer is serving a life term in prison.
Gilbert worked with the police to create the islandwide Maile Alert in 2002. The system was a collaborative effort of the Honolulu Police Department, the Missing Child Center of Hawai'i, state Civil Defense and local broadcasters.
Earlier this year the statewide Maile Amber Alert was initiated. Maile Amber is an acronym for Minor Abducted In Life-threatening Emergency and America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. It is named after Maile, and Amber Hagerman of Texas, who was also kidnapped and murdered.
"It's fantastic that it's finally here," Gilbert said.
Police said that nationwide, most children kidnapped by non-family members are killed within a few hours of an abduction. Having an alert system improves the chances of survival for abducted children.
In June, the alert was set in motion on O'ahu when a baby was taken in a stolen pickup truck. The truck and the 4-month-old girl were quickly found in a church parking lot on Moanalua Road.
"The more people that know a child is missing, the better the chances of recovering that child before something happens," Gilbert said.
The Gilbert family frequently visits the Coconut Island memorial, calling the spot Maile Point. They've placed a huge rock with a maile leaf carved on it at the site and take gifts on Maile's birthday, Christmas, Easter and other occasions, said Jeannie Gilbert, Maile's mother. It was a place Maile and her father and brother would go to on a kayak, paddling out from Kane'ohe Yacht Club.
After 20 years the memories are still very strong, Jeannie Gilbert said. "It's not something you get over," she said. "It's just something you learn to live with."
Reach Eloise Aguiar at email@example.com.