Retired HPD sergeant reflects on missing child cases, investigations

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — For retired Honolulu police Sgt. Mitch Ono, who has worked on dozens of missing child cases in his nearly 30 years of service, the search for Isabella Kalua brings back memories. He said in his experience, the information gathering starts with those close to the missing child.

One possible red flag is if anyone associated with the child has a criminal record.

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“They question everybody,” said retired Honolulu police Sgt. Mitch Ono. “Family members, friends, schools, if they’re going to school, if they missed school. They check on neighbors, every single lead. They’ll turn every leaf over to try and find out any information.”

Besides conducting interviews and collecting statements, officers are also on the lookout for physical signs.

“When you’re a police officer and you’re talking to somebody, you can tell by their body language, by their answers. The red flag you’re talking about is our instinct that we can see and people are doing it not conscientious. It’s like they’re doing it, they don’t even know they’re doing it, but we key in on those things,” Ono said.

Ono said in any case, police partially rely on the community for help. In the case of missing 6-year-old Isabella Kalua, hundreds of volunteers near and far have rallied together to look for her.

Honolulu police interim chief Rade Vanic detailed the department’s protocol for the search in a police commission meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15.

“There are individuals who have become search captains where we communicate with them and they go to their group and they assist by doing a search grid which is pretty common and standard in missing child cases,” Vanic said.

For Ono, he can still remember the faces of missing children cases he has worked on over the years. He said for many officers, these cases are personal.

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“We all have children of our own and grandkids of our own and I’m sure the community feels the same way. We’ll do anything and everything to get the child back, whether it’s for closure or if it’s to get them back safely. We’ll do anything to get the child back. That’s just how police officers are,” Ono explained.

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