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Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Oahu's homicides double in 1999: Foul play

The Xerox slayings skewed
the total upward, but the increase
over 1998 still causes alarm

Public's help needed

By Jaymes K. Song


Thirty-six people on Oahu were homicide victims last year, more than double 1998's total of 17. Last year's total was a 30-year low in homicides and considered an aberration.

Still, "It's very alarming," city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said about last year's total. "We were doing so well."

The three dozen slayings last year were the second-highest annual tally for the 1990s, according to police records.

The highest in the decade was 38 slayings in 1995.

The seven Xerox Corp. employees shot to death in November -- the worst multiple slaying in state history -- skewed last year's number. Excluding the Xerox case, the number would have been below the 1990-1998 average of 31 homicides per year.

The first half of 1999 was relatively quiet, but the second half recorded 31 homicides, which averages to more than one person a week being slain on Oahu.

Carlisle said 1999 stands out especially because 1998 was a remarkable year with so few homicides.

Police detectives said it is difficult to pinpoint what caused the more than 100 percent increase in killings from 1998 to 1999.

Carlisle plans to analyze the cases over the next few months to see if he can pinpoint a reason and to see what can be done to bring the numbers down.

One notable decrease: There were no crime suspects shot to death by police officers last year. In 1998, three men were shot and killed by Honolulu police officers.

The homicide rate in Honolulu, which has a population of about 800,000, excluding tourists, is still low compared to other major metropolitan areas in the United States.

The San Francisco Police Department, which patrols a population of about 750,000, reported 67 homicides last year, while 49 people were slain in Seattle. The Seattle Police Department serves about 550,000 people.

One trend Carlisle has witnessed is more "mainland-type" crimes being committed here, such as the robbery of the American Savings Bank in Kahala, in which gunshots were fired, and the Xerox shootings.

These two "mainland-type" cases, however, were committed by longtime Hawaii residents.

Unsolved cases
need public’s help

By Jaymes K. Song


The nude bodies of two young women were found last year -- one in a trash bag next to a Dumpster on Beretania Street, the other in a desolate field in Waialua.

A taxi driver, last seen in Waikiki, was found slumped over in his still-running cab at Kailua Beach Park with a gunshot wound to his head.

These are three of seven homicides last year that police have not been able to solve. And, without witnesses coming forward or tips from the public, the killers may never be found.

The unsolved homicides do not include the disappearance of In Chin McDonald, who has not been classified officially as a homicide victim, but whose disappearance is considered suspicious, said Honolulu police Det. Letha DeCaires, coordinator of CrimeStoppers. Call 955-8300 if you have information on any of these crimes.

A "common thread" in some of the cases is that the victims were involved in high-risk occupations or lifestyle choices, DeCaires said.

Police solve or close an average of 90 percent of all homicide cases, said acting homicide Lt. Anderson Hee. "Last year was about 80 (percent), so we're a little lower. But we're still in the ball park."

Without the arrest and conviction of a suspect, a victim's family and friends may never have closure, DeCaires said.

Police are asking the public's help in solving the slayings of the following victims (McDonald is included):

In Chin McDonald

Bullet Age: 31

Bullet Where/when found: Not found.
Bullet Background: Worked as a hostess at Club Chance Bar in the Pearl Kai Shopping Center. Has two young children who live in Texas.
Bullet Circumstances: Last seen leaving work the night of Nov. 19. She never returned home and her car was left at her workplace. The next day, her purse was found on a bike path near Blaisdell Park in Pearl City.
Bullet Suspect description: None. A possible suspect vehicle is an older white cargo van, which is believed to have dropped McDonald off at the park.
Bullet Additional: Friends say she was excited about seeing her children in a couple of weeks. DeCaires said McDonald showed no signs of suicide and went to work consistently. "People just don't disappear off the face of the Earth," DeCaires said.

Edwin Iwata

Bullet Age: 57
Bullet Where/when found:
His body was discovered on the sidewalk along Halekauwila Street fronting the Circuit Court building at 4:20 a.m. July 14.
Bullet Background: Worked as a custodian at Circuit Court since 1988. He may have been involved in gambling, although police do not know if it was a motive. Iwata was well-liked by co-workers and peers who described him as a hard worker and unassuming.
Bullet Circumstances: Stabbed to death. The assailant also severed part of his genitalia.
Bullet Suspect description: A Polynesian male in his 30s, 5 feet 11 inches tall, wearing shorts and a red, short-sleeved shirt with dark stripes was seen running away from the scene.

Hahn Soo Kim

Bullet Age: 41
Bullet Where/when found: Found with a gunshot wound to his head, seated in his taxicab, a 1984 Buick station wagon, at 2:52 a.m. Sept. 2 in the parking lot of Kailua Beach Park. His car was still running with the taxi-dome light on.
Bullet Background: A SIDA taxi driver, Salt Lake resident and father of two young boys.
Bullet Circumstances: SIDA does not make pickups in Kailua. Investigators believe he may have picked up a passenger who told him to drive to Kailua. He was last seen dropping off a fare at a Waikiki hotel at 1:30 a.m. He may have picked up someone else in Waikiki, but he did not radio it in. The last contact with the taxi dispatcher was at 1:15 a.m., when he reported an airport pickup.
Bullet Suspect description: None.
Bullet Additional: Investigators say robbery appeared to be a motive, although no money was taken.

Evelyn S.A. Luka

Bullet Age: 20
Bullet Where/when found:
Found unconscious and severely beaten on the side of the H-2 freeway near the Ka Uka off-ramp at 8 a.m. Sept. 6. She died Oct. 2.
Bullet Background: A Salt Lake resident and a graduate of Moanalua High School.
Bullet Circumstances: She was last seen leaving the Venus Night Club on Kapiolani Boulevard about 1 a.m. She called her family about 30 minutes earlier to say she was getting a ride home with a friend.
Bullet Suspect description: Was seen in the company of a man driving a green sport-utility vehicle with a trailer hitch and military sticker. He is described as black, in his early 30s, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 185 pounds, with a clean-cut look.
Efnet A. Haro
Bullet Age:
Bullet Where/when found:
Found unconscious and beaten in the parking lot of Kuhio Park Terrace in the early morning hours of Nov. 10. He died shortly after.
Bullet Background: Has family at Kuhio Park Terrace.
Bullet Circumstances: was intoxicated when he was beaten. Police believe robbery was a motive. He was found without a wallet or any identification.
Bullet Suspect description: None.

Michelle A. Bensinger

Bullet Age: 24
Bullet Where/when found:
Her body was found nude and badly decomposed in a Waialua cane field off of Kaukonahua Road on Aug. 10.
Bullet Background: AKA Melissa Ann Sormanti, she was a Waikiki prostitute with seven convictions for prostitution, plus seven other criminal convictions.
Bullet Circumstances: City medical examiners believe she was dumped in the cane field about two weeks before being found. The cause of her death, listed as "sudden," is unknown. Her car was found on Kunia Road.
Bullet Suspect description: None.

Jubilee "Maile" Lum

Bullet Age: 21
Bullet Where/when found: Body was found nude inside a plastic trash bag and dumped next to a Dumpster at Beretania Florists on Aug. 24.
Bullet Background: Started hanging around Chinatown at the age of 13. Lum's mother, Leilani Casper, said Lum got mixed up with the wrong people at a young age. Police believe she was involved in prostitution. Lum was to be married Nov. 26, about a month after her body was found.
Bullet Circumstances: Lum was four months pregnant when she was either strangled or suffocated.
Bullet Suspect description: A van, described as a white or light-colored Ford Econoline, was seen picking her up in Chinatown. The van was built between 1987 or 1990 and has swing-out doors on the passenger side. Police say there are only a handful of such vans on the island.

Seng Thong Lovan

Bullet Age: 37
Bullet Where/when found:
His body was found decomposing in heavy shrubbery next to a pineapple field in Kunia at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 22.
Bullet Background: He was a farmer who worked around Oahu, mostly in Kahuku. A friend said Lovan had no family or permanent home.
Bullet Circumstances: Seng Thong Lovan died of a single gunshot wound. He was identified when his fingerprints matched those in a computer databank of people arrested statewide. Police have no motives.
Bullet Suspect description: None.

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