By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
When local police issued a media release on Tuesday asking for help in solving a 40-year-old murder, they received a larger response than they anticipated.
“We got a lot of traction on this. We had calls from every media outlet in the state,” said Kona Criminal Investigations Section Detective Shawn Tingle, who is in charge of the cold-case file of Gayle Irene Hook, a 21-year-old Seattle native who had lived in Napoopoo for only a few months when she was shot to death.
The police release had little information. When asked for more details, Tingle replied: “What’s in the release is all I’m authorized to give out.”
Hook’s nude, partially decomposed body was found on April 6, 1973, in the basement storeroom of a meeting hall next to the then-abandoned Kahikolu Congregational Church, a stone edifice from the 1850s near Napoopoo that’s in the National Register of Historic Places. Four Konawaena High School students found her body, according to a Tribune-Herald article at that time.
The article stated that an autopsy “revealed a massive bullet wound in the left eye, probably made by a high-powered firearm.”
“Because of the deteriorated condition of the body, it was difficult to tell much more,” then-Detective Alfred Rabara, who was in charge of the initial investigation, said at the time.
Another newspaper account said that Hook’s body was cremated after the autopsy.
Hook, who lived with a group of young people in South Kona and supported herself by baby-sitting, had been reported missing on March 29, according to the recent police dispatch. But a brief in the April 8, 1973, Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Advertiser stated that police said Hook had not been reported missing before her body was found.
Hook’s slaying received little media attention at the time, and despite the questioning of between 75 and 100 Napoopoo residents and what Rabara called “good information” received after police asked the public for help, the case appears to have gone cold quickly.
Hook’s father, Max, is now 88. Contacted by the Tribune-Herald, he declined to comment.
Hook’s murder is “one of several cold cases out there that detectives are tasked with re-evaluating the evidence using new technologies,” Tingle’s supervisor, Lt. Gerald Wike, said. “I’ve had several calls asking, ‘What’s this all about?’ And all I can say, honestly, is it’s the 40th anniversary that this occurred. As is probably the case with all the departments throughout the state, ours has cold cases assigned to the investigators. And periodically, they review it and try to keep on top of it.”
Asked about the “new technologies” they might use to solve the case, neither Wike nor Tingle would elaborate.
“We did collect evidence; I can tell you that,” Tingle said, but declined to say what that evidence might be.
Tingle said that, in addition to the media attention, the department has received calls from citizens with information on the slaying. Asked if any of the leads appear promising, he replied, “Yes.”
The question of why Hook was shot appears to be as mysterious as who the shooter was. South Kona in 1973 was a magnet for young people from the mainland, some of whom took part in the burgeoning “Kona gold” marijuana-growing boom of the time.
“I can’t tell you she was a part of that culture,” Tingle said. “What I can tell you is that she was a good person — and I’m not just telling you that because she’s my victim. She was a good soul, innocent, very innocent.”
During the original investigation, police talked to a woman friend of Hook’s, who told officers that she had been beaten in March by two local men. Police didn’t know at the time whether the assault on Hook’s friend was related to the slaying. It’s not known if police made any arrests in the assault, although they said at the time that they were looking for the assailants and planned to question them in the murder investigation.
For his part, Tingle said he hopes the renewed media attention will jog consciences as well as memories.
“She deserves justice,” he said. “I hope someone will come forward because it’s the right thing and she deserves that.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Tingle at 326-4646, ext. 277, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or 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 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.