Lanai deaths investigated as suicides
Police find statements from John Etrata and his girlfriend, Ariel Aki
WAILUKU » Lanai residents John Etrata, 24, and his 15-year-old girlfriend, Ariel Aki, apparently committed suicide in a lovers' death pact, Maui police investigators suspect.
Etrata and Aki were shot by the same rifle, police said.
Police Lt. Glenn Cuomo said yesterday that according to a friend, Aki "did make statements expressing her intentions of ending her life."
Cuomo said separate written statements by Etrata and Aki, found in various places, have led police to investigate the deaths as a double suicide.
The bodies of Aki and Etrata were found Saturday in a field a half-mile behind the Lanai Police Station, and the rifle was recovered, police said.
Their deaths have shaken this rural island of about 3,200 residents, where there is an atmosphere of great sadness and bewilderment.
Etrata, a construction laborer, was a "good boy" and "good fisherman" who was friendly and waved often to residents as he drove by in his vehicle, his uncle Rey Etrata said.
"I'm really, really sad," he said.
Rey Etrata said John had encountered problems recently because he let Ariel drive his vehicle without a license, and she was stopped by a police officer.
"He tell his mom he need a lawyer," he said.
John Etrata had been arrested July 16 for sex assault involving Aki, based on a state law that prohibits sexual contact between a minor under 16 years of age and an adult more than five years older than the minor.
Aki, who was about to enter her sophomore year at Lanai High & Elementary, had been in the custody of her guardian, Henry Eskaran.
Court records show Eskaran filed a temporary restraining order on July 18 on behalf of Aki against Etrata.
On Friday, three days later, family members reported the couple missing.
Lanai High Principal Pierce Myers said a crew of professionals will be offering counseling to students when school opens Monday.
He said professionals are meeting this week with some students and helping them through the grieving process.
"Any loss of life is tragic, especially young people who have so much to offer and have unfulfilled potential," he said. "At this point we have to focus our effort to make sure that students along with their families -- everybody in our community -- know that there are other options available, and we have teams of professionals to make sure that message gets out as much as possible."
Michael Gannon, the minister with King's Cathedral and Chapel on Lanai, said grief-support gatherings were being held this week in the community.
"In responding to trauma and responding to tragedies like this ... the community of Lanai is so tight-knit and close that everybody comes together. It's really an amazing place."