How was a 15-year-old girl rescued from a kidnapper on the Big Island? : Kauai Now : Kauai News and Information

Bridge Hartman, an employee of Café Pesto in downtown Hilo, was in the hallway leading to the restaurant on Saturday when he spotted a young girl trying to get away from a middle-aged man.

“It’s her, it’s her,” he said.

Mikella’s mother Lani Debina emotionally shares the news of her rescue on Saturday. Computer: Facebook

Hartman recognized 15-year-old Mikella Lani Debina from recent Amber Alerts, which were sent to people all over the Big Island and even Maui.

Hartman ran to help Debina, pulling the Kealakehe High School sophomore away from her 52-year-old captor and helping her back to the restaurant.

Cafe manager Mario Castillo told Big Island Now: ‘He rushed her here and told everyone to ‘look for this guy’.”

People at the bayside facility pursued the fleeing man, but were unable to restrain him. They were able to obtain the license plate number of the vehicle he left in and reported it to the police.

This sparked a manhunt for Duncan Kealoha Mahi, who police say was responsible for the kidnapping of Debina on Friday afternoon at a beach in Waikoloa. Saturday afternoon, they had arrested him.

Duncan Kealoha Mahi

“He did a really good job,” Castillo said of his employee Hartman, who went home for the rest of the day after the emotional ordeal. “It was a good day.”

After nearly 24 agonizing hours, Debina and her family were reunited in Hilo, about 70 miles from where it had started in Waikōloa, where the teenager was abducted at knifepoint by a shirtless man carrying construction boots and a T-shirt wrapped around his face. hid everything but his eyes.

The rescue helped bring a heartbreaking end to what was a terrifying and unknown chapter for the community. News from he came to the family via the police, which they shared with the crowd of friends, family members, members of the media and locals who had come to the scene of the abduction to help search the missing girl.

“Mikella convinced the guy to take her to Cafe Pesto to get her something to eat,” Mikella’s mother shared with the group in a moving address. “He told her to stay in the car and she got out; and he tried to fight with her and this gentleman saved her.

The group burst into cheers and hugs.

“Amazing. We feel so blessed,” Laureen Debina, Debina’s aunt, told Big Island Now. We are so grateful to the community that helped bring her back. Thanks thanks thanks.”

The teenager was reportedly taken by the man between 1.30pm and 2.30pm on Friday from Anaeho’omalu Bay near Lava Lava Beach Club.

Her family said she was with her boyfriend as the man approached them brandishing his knife, his face covered, trudging along the empty beach in construction boots.

The area near the spot is fenced off due to major renovations going on at the restaurant. Her captor allegedly told Debina to tie her boyfriend up with blue duct tape and zip ties, which she did.

He fled with the two teenagers’ cell phones and fled with Debina. It took the boyfriend about an hour to free himself, the family said. He reported the abduction to police, triggering several Amber Alerts Friday and early Saturday morning and a full-scale search by Hawaiian police officers and the FBI.

“I knew she would fight,” Laureen Debina said.

The relieved teenager was with Hilo police when her family arrived.

“We saw her on Facetime,” Debina’s mother said before heading east. “She’s miles away.”

Police initially described the kidnapper as a local male, approximately 45 to 60 years old, 5ft 10in tall, of medium build and wearing gray bareback shorts.

On Saturday, they issued an alert that they were looking for Duncan Kealoha Mahi, 52, wanted for outstanding warrants and a kidnapping investigation. Mahi was last seen in downtown Hilo around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, driving a white Honda CRV, with license plate ZAE959.

Saturday afternoon, shortly after 4 p.m., police announced they had arrested him in Hilo.

“The investigation is continuing,” the ministry said. “The police would like to thank the community for their help.”

Under state law, kidnapping is a Class A felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

On Saturday morning, before the rescue, dozens of people gathered in Waikōloa to help search for the missing girl. A tent was set up to help organize the search efforts where dozens of people waited and shared their support. The police had blocked off the area which they were monitoring by air with helicopters and on foot. Law enforcement planned to start organizing volunteer teams to search the area after aerial patrols ended, but Debina’s rescue took place on the other side of the island before those teams could begin. .

“I want to thank everyone for coming here to help. I’m glad we didn’t need you,” the policeman said. Thomas Shopay told the crowd. “That’s the best news, that she’s safe.”

Hawaii Island Mayor Mitch Roth posted on social media about the teenager’s safe recovery.

“FOUND!!!” writes the mayor. “Mahalo hurt our HPD agents, the FBI and our community for working tirelessly to find Mikella and get her to safety. That’s what community is – and thankfully, we have the best community in the world.

Saturday morning, as the missing girl’s relatives waited at the tent from 7 a.m., they shared their grief and fear over what had happened. Many had started searching the area on Friday evening. Most were in disbelief, such as Mikella’s classmates Vaitea Gionson, Maming Bacxa, Malia Bacxa, and Alysra Oswalt.

They felt helpless that they couldn’t do anything for their friend, and their thoughts after a sleepless night raced to what she might be going through. They described Mikella as a loving and supportive person with a “beautiful” soul who loved his friends and was always looking to invite more people into his circle. She was the kind of person who didn’t want anyone to feel lonely or unloved.

“I’m just afraid of losing a friend,” Gionson said. “I just want her back to safety as soon as possible.”

“I feel like it’s a really bad dream and I’m going to wake up in a few hours,” said a distraught Maming Bacxa. “

“I miss her,” added Malia Bacxa. “He really misses his friends and family. I would have liked to hold her tighter in my arms.

Tom Haslinger

Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as editor of West Hawaii Today and associate editor of The Garden Island newspaper in Kauai. He worked for more than 15 years as a journalist for Civil Beat based in Oahu, as well as Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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