Wednesday, April 9, 2003

A police officer checked out Hauula Homestead Road yesterday near the command post where police searched for the three escapees from Halawa Correctional Facility.

Police comb
Hauula forest
for 3 escapees

A high-tech device captures
images of what may have been
2 people in the forest

The 3 fugitives

By Leila Fujimori

Police search teams this morning again were focusing their attention on the Kaipapau Forest Reserve in Hauula in their search for three prison escapees after a high-tech device captured images of what may have been two people walking in the dense forest.

"We'll be doing a more thorough search of the area today," said Lt. Bill Kato, who is in charge of the 100-member special task force assigned to capture Albert Batalona, Warren Elicker and David Scribner.

The three, all considered dangerous, were discovered missing early Friday from Halawa Correctional Facility during a routine headcount. The three escaped from two adjoining cells, hijacked a car from the parking lot of nearby Stadium Mall and drove to windward Oahu where they abandoned the car at Hauula Kai Shopping Center, police said.

At daybreak yesterday, police began concentrating their search in a valley in the forest reserve after an infrared scope mounted to the police helicopter detected movements of what appeared to be at least two people late Monday or early yesterday, Kato said.

The thermal images were detected in the valley, about 1 1/2 miles mauka of Kamehameha Highway, Kato said.

"Our best chance is right here in the valley," he said.

The valley is located mauka of the ELC Foundation property, which houses two programs: Hawaii Center for Children, for teens who need guidance; and Fresh Start Inc., for adults who have had problems with the law.

Police have set up a command post at the ELC property, but Kato said the escapees could be mobile and could have crossed over ridges.

"It's not like they're boxed in," Kato said.

Kato said this morning that police plan to repeat yesterday's search procedures, narrowing the search perimeter and posting law enforcement officers at dry riverbeds and trail heads in case the escapees come out of the valley to head toward the highway.

"Hopefully, if they do come down, they approach the perimeter, we can have officers there or officers able to res-pond in a matter of minutes," Kato said.

Police are using search dogs, but conditions in the valley make the job difficult, he said.

"The brush area is thick; the forest is thick," Kato said. "They can get down into the bushes, and we could probably walk right past them and not actually see them."

Kato said the escapees may be armed, although a hunter who reported seeing them at a campsite Sunday did not report seeing any weapons.

For public safety reasons, the Hauula Loop Trail, Hauula and Kaipapau forest reserves and Maakua Ridge Trail are closed until further notice, said Gary Moniz, of state Department of Land & Natural Resources' Division of Conservation & Resources Enforcement.

Police believe it will become more difficult for the escapees to hold out in the mountains. They do not know whether the escapees are receiving help.

"We're not sure, but I don't know if someone might be willing to hike in there just to give them help and go in and out of the mountain like that," he said.

Police have investigated whether any friends or relatives of the escapees living in the area have helped them.

"As far as we know, no one's made contact with anyone," Kato said. He praised the community's support, saying hunters and others familiar with the trails have assisted police, offering advice.

"I hope they catch them soon," said a 42-year-old woman who lives on Hanaimoa Street.

Monday night, a searchlight used by a police helicopter brought the woman's children to the front window.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said her six children are fearful. She asked her 4-year-old, " 'Are you scared?' She said, 'Yeah.' "

Her 16-year-old son asked, "Mom, did you lock the door?"

"I feel safer that they're looking," said a 38-year-old woman with five children. "There's always hope that they find them because of my kids."

Police warned motorists not to pick up hitchhikers. They said motorists should take their car keys when leaving their car, be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity.

Star-Bulletin reporter Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.


The 3 fugitives


David Scribner

Sentenced to 10 years for robbery and escape in October 2002. Has seven felony convictions for escape, promoting dangerous drugs and robbery.

>> Age: 20
>> Height: 5 feet, 7 inches
>> Weight: 170 pounds
>> Of note: Tattoo of Asian character on right shoulder.


Albert R. Batalona

Sentenced to life without parole for the armed robbery of the American Savings Bank in Kahala in July 1999.

>> Age: 27
>> Height: 5 feet, 9 inches
>> Weight: 195 pounds
>> Of note: Multiple tattoos including bird on right forearm, man's face on right upper arm, spider web on right elbow, and woman on left forearm.


Warren Elicker

Sentenced to 20 years in prison for armed robbery in November 2001. Has 13 felony convictions for armed robbery, kidnapping, burglary and auto theft.

>> Age: 25
>> Height: 5 feet, 8 inches
>> Weight: 175 pounds
>> Of note: Multiple tattoos including Old English letters on neck, Rockafella Boy on upper left arm, nature scenes and letters K and B on right upper arm, Hawaiian Islands map on chest, and KALIHI written on left calf.

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