in deaths of two
A California prison inmateBy Jaymes K. Song
says both worked for the
same escort service
Michelle Anne Bensinger and Jubilee "Maile" Lum, whose nude bodies were found recently on Oahu, two weeks apart, worked at the same escort service, says a convicted pimp.
Homicide detectives acknowledge they looked into whether the two deaths may be related. But they have not determined whether there is a connection, or whether one of the deaths was a murder.
Rod "Shadow" King, serving time at a California prison for promoting prostitution at Fort DeRussy, said he knew Bensinger for four years as a friend and "business associate." He met Lum about seven months ago.
The women were working together at an escort service named Petite Pleasures, he said in a telephone call from prison. Bensinger was running the service, and Lum was answering phone calls, King said.
Bensinger's decomposed body was found off Kaukonahua Road in Waialua on Aug. 10. Police believe it had been there at least two weeks. Lum's body was found two weeks later inside a trash bag left outside a trash bin at 1293 S. Beretania St.
Police acknowledge they are investigating these similarities: Both women apparently were involved with drugs and prostitution; both were found nude; both were in their early 20s. Bensinger was 24, Lum 21.
"We're not saying they are connected," said Lt. Allen Napoleon, head of the homicide detail. "But we're not saying they are not connected."
King, who was arrested Feb. 2, said he received a letter in prison from Bensinger postmarked July 23. He said the letter was about how distressed she was about people coming after her because of a love triangle she was involved in.
King said he wants to assist police with the investigation because "I know Michelle would do the same for me."
Police said he has already been interviewed.
A cause of death for Bensinger of Waikiki has not been determined. Her body was so badly decomposed that investigators couldn't tell whether she had visible wounds. Police have classified the Bensinger case as a "suspicious unattended death," not a homicide.
City medical examiners said Lum, of Honolulu, died from "asphyxiation" or suffocation.
Detective Michael Tsuda, who is assigned to the Lum case, said there is no evidence of a link between the two deaths, but the women probably knew each other.
According to court records, Bensinger had 14 criminal convictions in Hawaii, including seven for prostitution and three for trespassing. Lum did not have an adult criminal arrest record.
Meanwhile, police are still searching for the van that was seen picking up Lum in Chinatown.
The van is believed to be a white or light-colored Ford Econoline. The van was built between 1987 and 1990. It has swing-out side doors and windows on the passenger side.
If anyone has information about the women or the van, call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300 or homicide detectives at 529-3115.