By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Big Island police are currently searching for 17 missing teenagers.
One teen has been missing for a little more than a week; most have been gone from their homes for a few weeks to a few months. One has been unaccounted for almost a year-and-a-half.
Names, ages and photographs of nine of those teens have been made public. The parents or guardians of the other missing minors have not authorized police to release that information to the media or the public, and police cannot, by law, release their names without that approval.
“We put in a lot of effort to try to find these kids,” said Capt. Mitch Kanehailua of the Criminal Investigation Division. The Juvenile Aid Section is one of three units that CID oversees. “Because of their situation, they may end up putting their trust in people who don’t have their best interests in mind. They might get involved with drugs, prostitution, that type of activity. And some of them are homeless and in unsafe environments.”
Vernon Kahele of Milolii has been missing the longest. He was 16 when last seen on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2010. He’s described as Samoan-Hawaiian, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-9, 135-150 pounds with dark brown hair and brown eyes.
Teri Bowen of Hilo was 17 when she was last seen on Aug. 28, 2011. She’s described as 5-feet tall, about 100 pounds with long blond hair and brown eyes.
Kyle B. Hank of Puna was 17 when he last seen on Sept. 21, 2011. He’s described as 5-foot-11, about 140 pounds with short sandy hair and blue eyes.
Kiana Kekahuna-Foster of Mountain View was 15 when she was last seen on Nov. 24, 2011. She’s described as 5-foot-5, about 150 pounds with black hair.
Jazmyn Kalaukia Williams of Puna was 17 when she was last seen on Nov. 29, 2011. She’s described as 5-foot-3, about 125 pounds with long black hair and brown eyes.
Abcidy (Abcde) Santos of Honokaa, who also goes by “Abby,” was 15 when she was last seen on Feb. 8. She’s described as 5-foot-2, about 170 pounds with brown medium-length hair and brown eyes. She may be in the Hamakua or Kona areas.
Kayden C. Fuerte of Hilo was 16 when he was last seen on April 24. He’s described as 5-foot-5, 125 pounds with hazel eyes and brown hair.
Tearon T. Pacheco-Fernandez of Hilo was 16 when she was last seen on April 30. She’s described as Portuguese, 5-foot-1, about 110 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.
And Kaya Kuumomikai Au of Waimea was 16 when she was last seen on June 5. She’s described as 5-foot-9, about 130 pounds with long brown hair and brown eyes.
Several of the teens have run away from foster homes, while others are missing from their family homes, Kanehailua said. He added that some have run away more than once.
“Some of them, once we pick ’em up and take ’em to the limited facilities we have for ’em, they end up running again,” he said. “I think what people need to know is we are trying to locate them. But when you pick them up and drop them off and they run again, the Police Department is not in a position to figure it out. We just do what we have to do.”
Kanehailua said that social service agencies, such as Child Welfare Services, assist with those who have run away multiple times.
“We have a lot of good people in those agencies that assist,” he said. “But once they place a child, we can’t lock them down. A lot of times they’ll leave again. That’s one of the problems.
“I think there needs to be other agencies looking into the causes (of teens running away), so we don’t have to always do this.”
Police ask that anyone with information about these or any other missing children’s locations call the police non-emergency line at 935-3311. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record any calls or subscribe to caller ID, and all Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.