Truck owner held in missing-woman case
Though no body has yet been found, police say a Japanese visitor has been murdered
For about a week, Honolulu police have asked the public to tell them about the previous whereabouts of a white four-door Ford F-150 pickup truck impounded in the investigation of a missing 21-year-old Japanese female visitor.
Yesterday, police said they had arrested the owner of the truck for investigation of second-degree murder, even though they have not found Masumi Watanabe's body.
While Police Chief Boisse Correa made the announcement, police were mum on the evidence that led to the arrest.
The suspect is an employee of Hauoli Pest Control. Police said they searched one of the company's trucks and the seized F-150 pickup truck.
Police have been searching for Watanabe since April 12, when she failed to return to her host family's house after taking a walk on Pupukea Road.
The search began in Pupukea and spread to Windward Oahu, including Kahana Valley.
Honolulu police have arrested a Kalihi man in an investigation of the murder of a visiting Japanese woman who has been missing for two weeks.
Detectives have reclassified Masumi Watanabe's missing-person case as a homicide -- even though her body has not been found.
"At this point we feel that Ms. Watanabe has been murdered," Police Chief Boisse Correa said last night at a news conference.
Police said they arrested the 22-year-old man in Kalihi at about 5 p.m. yesterday on suspicion of second-degree murder.
The suspect is also the owner of a white four-door Ford F-150 pickup truck that police seized on April 19. Police asked for help from the public on the whereabouts of the truck in connection with the case.
Police also searched a truck belonging to Hauoli Pest Control, where the suspect is an employee. Correa would not comment further on the suspect or what led to the arrest, citing the ongoing investigation.
Watanabe, 21, had been staying with a host family in Pupukea since February. She was last seen taking a walk on Pupukea Road near Alapio Road at about 9:20 a.m. April 12.
Correa said enough forensic evidence is available to move forward with the homicide investigation even though Watanabe's body has not been found.
"We're still looking for her. It's not over yet," Correa said.
Police began searching the Pupukea area and expanded to Windward areas, including Kahana Valley.
Police spokesman Capt. Frank Fujii said the Police Department has not confirmed any forensic evidence or physical evidence.
Correa said the incident was rare and was the first time in his career that a visitor had been abducted and possibly killed.
"We do live in a safe community, if not the safest in the U.S.," he said, adding that the police department cleared 16 of 18 killings last year.
Watanabe's parents arrived in Honolulu on April 16 and have requested privacy. They were informed about the homicide investigation yesterday.
Watanabe was staying with the host family through an informal arrangement, not through a school program, city Prosecutor's Office spokesman Jim Fulton said. She had been expected to return to Japan last week.
"No family should be put through this," Correa said.