At a regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Kihei Community Association (KCA) on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 18 uniformed lieutenants, captains and commanders lined up along the side wall of the Kihei Charter School auditorium as Maui Police Department Chief Gary Yabuta took the stage to face a standing-room-only crowd of over 200 Maui residents, community leaders, and family and friends of missing Maui residents Carly "Charli" Scott in and Moreira "Mo" Monsalve. Lining the opposite wall were five camera crews from both O'ahu and Maui.
Besides a Police Department press conference earlier in the day, this KCA monthly meeting was the community's first opportunity to directly ask investigation officials about these cases.
KCA President Mike Moran welcomed his members and the public, setting ground rules for respectful behavior, including holding questions until the formal presentations were over.
Maui Police Department Chief Gary Yabuta took the stage at last week’s KCA meeting to face a standing-room-only crowd wanting answers to their questions about Maui’s missing women.
Chief Yabuta introduced his staff and explained that the Maui Police Department requested this presentation on Feb. 18 last October as part of their community outreach. However, he said, his lead investigators would also present an update of the recent unsolved missing persons cases, and his staff would answer questions.
The crowd listened politely and patiently to an informative, formal presentation by Kihei District Chief Tivoli (Tivo) Faaumu about the area's police coverage and crime. He also included slides of the new Kihei District Police Station. (See "Kihei District Police Information" on page 3).
When Capt. John Jakubczak and Lt. Peter Delima from the MPD Criminal Investigation Division took the stage, a palpable tension filled the room as the attendees pressed in to hear news about the missing Maui women. Capt. Jakubczak began with a summation of both cases (see sidebar, left).
According to Capt. Jakubczak, the two cases, although similar, are not connected. Addressing the first question, the captain assured that there is no evidence that a serial killer is at large. He emphasized that not all the evidence and information recovered has been released to the public due to the nature of their investigation and their need to collect evidence with legal weight. Phone records and other data are being analyzed. At this time, the police are collecting information on persons of interest, but no suspects have been identified.
Questions from the audience expressed a range of emotions--from sadness, concern and fear to frustration and anger. Maui residents not only expressed their feelings about the missing and their friends and families, but for future public safety.
Adam Gaines, who described himself as "Charli's hanai brother," called for Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) involvement in the case. His heated question drew both applause and shouts.
"When was the last time a missing person case on Maui got solved?" Gaines asked.
Chief Yabuta replied, "I am chief and I take the responsibility of these cases very seriously. I trust my staff and they are doing things properly. We are doing all we can."
"I'm not angry, I'm frustrated!" Gaines shouted over the crowd.
"I'm frustrated, too," Chief Yabuta replied, "but we are doing all we can do. We are not sleeping peacefully at night."
"Rumors that the FBI wanted in and was turned down are just not true," said Capt. Jakobczak.
Chief Yabuta added, "Two FBI agents live on Maui and Maui Police Department's relationship with the FBI is the best in the nation."
When asked when they will involve the FBI, the emphatic answer was, "When we believe we need help."
Later, Maureen Craig shared that she spoke with a local FBI agent who told her, "We are on it."
In answer to questions about whether homes of ex-boyfriends in both cases have been searched, and why the men are allowed to travel off-island, Chief Yabuta said, " because they have constitutional rights."
Local security specialist William Nill explained to the audience that constitutional rights apply to everyone--even persons of interest. Because neither man is a formal suspect, they have the right to leave the island. Unless evidence creates probable cause for a search warrant, their homes cannot be legally searched.
Upon hearing this, the strained uneasiness in the room seemed to diminish slightly. But as the evening proceeded, many questions were left unanswered, while others were purposefully vague to shield the continuing investigation.
A woman in the audience wanted to know how many unsolved missing persons cases are still open, and asked that this information be made available online so the community might help.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the county's missing persons Web page showed that it had not been updated since August 2007. Checking it the day following the KCA meeting, the link no longer went to that page, which was now "unavailable." On Thursday of the same week, the county link brought up the MPD Facebook page with a Feb. 11 post for Scott and a Jan. 15 post for Monsalves.
When a question was asked about how Crime Stoppers relays information to the police, it was pointed out that Maui Crime Stoppers is a community-based nonprofit organization.
One concern repeatedly voiced by members of the audience was the lack of communication between MPD, the public and even the media. (See "Public Critical of Police Handling of Investigation of Two Missing Women" on the front page.)
For example, a man in the audience reported to MPD that an intruder invaded his home on Thursday, Feb. 13, shouting racial slurs and beat him with a shovel. His injuries required hospitalization. As of the meeting date (Feb. 18), MPD had not called him back, he said. Chief Yabuta promised him that his report would not be ignored.
"Maui Police Department has zero tolerance for hate crimes, and I am listening," Chief Yabuta responded. "We have to communicate better."
A woman in the audience asked if Captain Faaumu had seen a YouTube video of a local male harassing visitors in Kalama Park and what was being done. Faaumu answered that he and 180,000 others have seen the clip. The victim called in this incident, Kihei police responded, identified the harasser and now the case is moving forward. Police on bicycles are now patrolling the park with good results.
Despite tensions and a few outbursts of temper, the meeting adjourned at 8 p.m. to the sound of applause.
Chief Yabuta and his top staff and regional media remained in the Lipoa Center parking lot until 9 p.m. to talk with attendees and answer questions.
Outside the meeting room, Jeff Simon, a project manager for ELCCO, Electrical Contractors Inc., spoke to the Maui Weekly. He has been tirelessly coordinating all the volunteer search and rescue teams, scouring remote locations looking for Scott. In the search, he said, communications is key.
"We need guidance," said Simon. "Coordinating, managing and communicating among government agencies and volunteer groups are major challenges. We have to get this system set up now for Carly, and for people who go missing in the future. It's not only family and friends searching--it's dog teams, the Coast Guard, divers, Maui Fire Department and community organizations who all need to work together in synch with the police. I think we can all do a better job."
One search and rescue volunteer added, "The main thing I learned on the search team is how much of this island is jungle wilderness. You don't notice it when you drive to work or the store. Once you get off the road, there are so many places nobody ever goes. It's a very big job."
Also after the meeting, the Maui Weekly asked Capt. Jakubczak about community participation.
"We have a history of community assistance in criminal cases," said the captain. "Maui always pitches in, but never before like this--because these cases came so close together."
Capt. Jakubczak encourages volunteers to protect themselves and the evidence they find.
"A lot of these out-of-the-way places are dangerous," the captain said. "Please be careful. If you find something, do not move it or touch it--this would ruin the integrity of the evidence. Take a photo just as it is, and call it in to us."
The family and friends of Scott have posted a $10,000 reward for information directly leading to her whereabouts. Tips may be called or submitted online to Crime Stoppers: www.mauicrimestoppers.net, (808) 242-6966 or toll-free at (888) 242-6966.
Those wishing to volunteer for continuing search-and-rescue efforts may visit www.facebook.com/findcarliscott for up-to-the-minute information and scheduled field missions.
The next meeting of KCA is scheduled for Tuesday, March 18, and will cover the topic of Little Fire Ants.