Despite similarities in the disappearances of Maui residents Carly "Charli" Scott and Moreira "Mo" Monsalve that happened within the span of a month's time, the Maui Police Department said Tuesday that there is no evidence to suggest the two cases are linked and that rumors of a "serial" kidnapper are unsubstantiated.
The Maui Police Department held a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Wailuku Police Station in response to the "barrage" of media inquiries and community concerns that have been pouring in since the disappearances of the two Maui women.
Both cases still are being handled as missing person cases, until "we receive information or evidence to believe a crime has been committed," said Capt. John Jakubczak, commander of the Criminal Investigation Division.
Alexis Felicida, who reported her mother Moreira “Mo” Monsalve missing Jan. 14, listens to Maui police at the Kihei Community Association meeting Tuesday night.
The Maui News / EILEEN CHAO photo
The Maui News / EILEEN CHAO photo
"We would have to have evidence that connects either missing person with that clothing or evidence we collected, beyond just someone saying that's a similar type of clothing or that's the type of clothing (belonging to the victim)," Jakubczak said. "We are in the process of having evidence we recovered processed so we can get that information. Once that comes out, then we will come out and mention a change in classification of the investigation."
Jakubczak did not say how long the process would take but said the evidence would need to be sent to a laboratory off-island for further testing.
Scott was reported missing by her mother Feb. 10. The 27-year-old Makawao resident, who is 5 months pregnant, was last seen around 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at her older sister's home in Haiku. Family members said that Scott left the house to help her ex-boyfriend, whose car broke down around Mile Marker 20 on Hana Highway in Keanae. On Feb. 12, her Toyota 4Runner was discovered in the Peahi area, "burnt as if it had been torched by someone," police said. On Feb. 15, volunteers found "clothing and personal items" that family members identified as belonging to Scott.
Monsalve, a single mother of three, was reported missing by her daughter Jan. 14. The 46-year-old woman was last seen around 10 p.m. Jan. 12 at her ex-boyfriend's residence in Wailuku. On Jan. 16, Monsalve's "personal belongings" were recovered from a dumpster at Wailuku Community Center. Police conducted a two-day search Jan. 17 and 18 around Waipoli Road in Kula, using search dogs. Other searches were organized by family and volunteers around the island.
Both Scott's ex-boyfriend, Steven Capobianco, and Monsalve's ex-boyfriend, Bernard Brown, have been named by police as "persons of interest," though no suspects have been named in either case. "Persons of interest" are merely people police need to get more information from, while suspects are people with whom evidence links direct involvement, police said.
While Capobianco cooperated with police in answering questions, police said, Brown hired a lawyer and refused to provide a statement or to take a polygraph test. He reportedly left the island earlier this month.
"We had nothing to keep him here; he has rights like everyone else," Jakubczak said.
Brown's apartment has not been searched either, because he has not been named as a suspect, though nearly all his neighbors have been interviewed, Jakubczak said. He said that police currently are not in touch with Brown, who allegedly caught a flight to San Jose, Calif.
Family and friends of both women have expressed frustration and fatigue. A number of them were present Tuesday evening when police department officials spoke at the monthly Kihei Community Association.
"Contrary to belief, we're doing everything we can," Chief Gary Yabuta said at the start of the meeting. "We are not sleeping at night peacefully knowing we have two women missing; that is the truth. This is an extensive investigation, and we need people's help."
Yabuta said that while he hoped to answer some of the community's concerns about the missing women, he could not "answer all the questions because it will compromise our investigation; that's police work."
Volunteers, friends and family members have spent hundreds of hours searching for both women over the last week and the last month, only to come up with more questions than answers.
"I'm burnt to the ground; I've been looking high and low," said Adam Gaines, Scott's close friend who was with Scott at the hospital when she heard her baby's first heartbeat. "I'm curious as to when the feds (Federal Bureau of Investigation) are going to get involved."
The question was posed more than once Tuesday, and while the Maui Police Department "have been in contact with FBI agents," there is currently no formal assistance from the FBI.
"We are working with them in certain ways, but we're doing everything we can with our resources to investigate these cases first," Jakubczak said, adding that rumors that the department turned down the FBI's offer for assistance were false.
When asked at what point the department will be asking for the help of the FBI, Jakubczak replied: "When we believe we need help."
Gaines said after the meeting that he believes the police department has done all it could with the limited resources it has and appreciates the work of all the police officers and volunteers who have helped with the search.
"I personally saw the 30 police officers on their hands and knees, searching the jungle trying to find anything they could," Gaines said. These guys are fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers; they understand it's a little bit different because there's an unborn child involved."
Scott's family is offering a $10,000 cash reward for anyone with information leading to Scott's rescue or recovery, according to a flier circulated by her friends and family. The details were still being worked out and contrary to earlier published reports, the reward will not be connected to Crime Stoppers.
In the meantime, police and county officials urged the community to be patient and diligent in verifying facts before spreading rumors that may obstruct the investigation.
"The one thing we don't want to happen is a continuous barrage of rumors that will cloud the case, nor do we want to have people trying to press too hard into the investigation," Mayor Alan Arakawa said at the news conference. "The police are the ones who are capable of handling it. . . . Even though there's an urgency to try and solve these cases, those in our community have to be patient. . . . Otherwise, we'll jeopardize the potential to use whatever evidence is being filed."
Police urged volunteers to report any possible evidence they may find without touching or moving the item so that the department can recover as much evidence as possible.
Both the Monsalve and Scott cases are being actively investigated and will remain open "until we can get some type of resolution for the families," police said.
Anyone with any information should call Maui Police Department Criminal Investigation Division at 244-6425.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.