By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Two tourists from California told police they were robbed at knife point while camping early Wednesday morning at a county beach park north of Hilo.
Rayna Macher, a 29-year-old neuropsychologist and assistant professor at Palo Alto University, said she was camping at Kolekole Beach Park with a 29-year-old San Franciscan named Daniel, whom she had met at Hilo Bay Hostel, when she was awakened by an intruder in their tent.
“I was woken up at about 4, 4:15 a.m. with a flashlight in my face and somebody rifling through my stuff,” Macher said Wednesday afternoon. She said the intruder at first claimed to be “a ranger” and asked what was in her bag.
“He grabbed my backpack and started pulling stuff out of it, and all I really had was clothes and stuff like that,” she said.
“He kept asking us, ‘What’ve you got? What’ve you got?’ So my friend asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’ And he said, ‘Money.’ So (Daniel) said, ‘Take my wallet. We don’t want any trouble.’ We didn’t realize he’d already taken the wallet.”
Macher said there was nobody else in the remote, dark park, except herself, her friend and the intruder.
“He found my friend’s house keys and thought it was the keys to our rental car, which was parked in the parking lot, maybe 200 yards away,” she said. “He said, ‘Stay where you are; don’t get out of the tent or I’ll hurt you. I’ll go get my buddies. I have a gun.”
Macher said that after the robber realized he didn’t have the car keys, he came back and sliced into the tent with a knife.
“He was trying to make a statement and scare us,” she said. “It was absolutely terrifying. When he said he had buddies, I was sure that was it.”
She said the robber demanded the keys to the car, a white Ford Mustang, and became agitated. She said the man was wielding a knife “like a switchblade, about six inches long” and they turned over the keys.
“All of our stuff was in the car,” Macher said. “He said, ‘If you leave the tent, I’ll come back and I’ll slice you. We thought he was just gonna open the car and steal our stuff; we thought, who would risk grand theft auto, you know. But next thing you know, we heard the engine and he was peelin’ out.
“It was pitch black, he had taken our headlamps, so we had to walk about a half an hour.”
She said they found a bed-and-breakfast in Honomu, awakened the owner, and called police to report the crime. Macher said she and her friend both lost their wallets, their credit cards, cell phones, his glasses and contact lenses, and her laptop computer with all her lecture material. She said she had about $150 cash that was taken, as well.
“I’ve never been mugged before; I’ve never even been pickpocketed,” Macher said. “I was terrified. I haven’t gotten any sleep since.”
Police later found the Mustang abandoned in upper Wainaku, and are investigating the incident as first-degree robbery, second- and third-degree theft, first-degree terroristic threatening, unlawful imprisonment and auto theft.
Neither Macher nor her friend were physically injured.
“It was fortunate that nobody got hurt,” said Police Lt. Greg Esteban of the Hilo Criminal Investigations Section. “They did the right thing by complying with the suspect’s request.”
Esteban said that campers should stick to where it’s well lit at night, to be aware of their surroundings and to plan an escape route in case there is trouble.
Police are seeking the suspect, who was described as fair-skinned, possibly Caucasian, in his mid 20’s, about 5’8”, 150-160 pounds and clean-shaven. He was last seen wearing a dark-colored jacket or hoodie, either a beanie or a hood, and possibly khaki pants or shorts.
Anyone with information on the identity of the suspect or who may have witnessed the robbery is asked to contact Detective Norbert Serrao at 961-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.