HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — The state’s second ever MAILE AMBER Alert was issued Friday when Hawaii Island teen Mikella DeBina went missing from Kona.
Duncan Mahi, 52, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of kidnapping 15-year-old DeBina from Anaehoomalu Bay Friday afternoon.
By Monday, the suspect was charged.
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During the time that DeBina was missing, family and officials spent Friday night into early Saturday searching for her, with no luck.
“We really didn’t have a lot of facts early on, but once we got that together and we’re able to interview the other parties involved, it was a decision that was made that this is something serious,” said Capt. Thomas Shopay, Hawaii Police Department Area II Criminal Investigation Division.
With every moment counting, state and federal partners were quickly alerted.
“The biggest attribute we brought to it was the manpower and our behavioral analysis, which had started to work with the police on this,” said Steven Merrill, FBI Honolulu Special Agent in Charge.
While every possible lead was being followed, police made the decision to sound the alarm. However, in order to issue a MAILE AMBER Alert, strict criteria must be met. The child must be 17 years old or younger, and police must have enough information to indicate the child was abducted, and the child is in immediate danger.
“It did take us a little bit to get to meet that criteria, but as soon as that threshold was crossed, that information went out,” said Capt. Shopay.
Big Island residents received the initial alert, then a few hours later the entire state received the alert on their phones.
“If we don’t have results locally, we want to make sure we have all the bases covered to make sure we get the individual back to their family, safely and quickly as possible,” Capt. Shopay said.
As it turned out, DeBina would help get herself out of the situation.
DeBina told her alleged abductor, on Saturday morning, that she was hungry and asked him to take her to Cafe Pesto, which he did. When they arrived, they scuffled as DeBina tried to get away from him.
An observant host at the restaurant noticed the scuffle and that’s when he said it all clicked.
“All I remember is yelling who she was and telling the people that were close to them to stop him. As I’m saying that, I like grabbed her just as quickly,” said Bridge Hartman.
As Hartman and others helped get her to safety, Mahi was able to get away but police found and arrested him a couple of hours later.
Although MAILE AMBER Alerts are rarely issued, the Office of the Attorney General’s Missing Child Center of Hawaii and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency regularly check that the system is up to date and working.
MCCH encourages the public to enable alert notifications on their phones.
“The success stories we hear on the mainland with AMBER Alerts, it will almost always be a civilian who locates the child and so it’s absolutely critical that we have that community engagement and support,” said Amanda Leonard, MCCH Coordinator.
One of the good Samaritans that helped save DeBina in Hilo credits the MAILE AMBER Alert for getting the community engaged.
“It was all of our efforts and literally everyone was talking about it the night before when we got the AMBER Alert,” said Bridge Hartman.
Again, police would like to thank the community for stepping in to help reunite DeBina with her family.
“The family, I believe is very thankful for — for the results, but they do have a long road ahead of them and I ask that we keep them in our thoughts as we go forward,” Capt. Shopay said.
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As the investigation continues, anyone with information is asked to contact Hawaii Island police at 808-935-3311.