Woman’s murder remains one of Hawaii’s biggest unsolved mysteries

It’s been 35 years since Lisa Au went missing, and no one has ever been arrested for her murder.

To this day, it remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in Hawaii.

Au was only 19 years old at the time, and worked as a hairdresser in Kailua.

She was last seen alive just after midnight on Jan. 21, 1982. She had gone to her boyfriend’s sister’s apartment in Makiki for dinner earlier that evening.

“We left dinner at about 12:45, and we went downstairs, and we had both driven our own cars, and we said goodnight, and that was the last I saw her,” said Au’s boyfriend during an interview in 1982.

He ended up finding Au’s car hours later, parked along the highway in Kailua near Kapaa Quarry Road.

Au had disappeared without a trace.

After that, there was a huge search through nearby Kawainui Marsh, other parts of Kailua, out to Kaneohe and Waimanalo.

Her parents, meanwhile, were hoping for good news.

“We have stayed near home, in case she happens to be able to call. Near the phone,” Au’s mother, Patrice Au-Kaunamano, said during an interview in 1982.

But after days of searching, police feared the worst.

“If she was kidnapped they would probably call the family, ask for ransom, but they haven’t called. I don’t know,” an HPD officer told KHON2 in 1982.

Au disappeared on a rainy night, and she had just gotten her driver’s license two days earlier.

“I went with her to purchase the car, a car that checked out alright,” Au’s father, Chester Au, said during an interview in 1982.

Au’s purse was still in the car when it was found, but her driver’s license and car registration were missing.

Witnesses also reported seeing a car with blue flashing grill lights behind Lisa’s car.

That led to speculation that someone posing as a police officer, or even a real police officer, had something to do with it.

“The police department felt that it was serious enough to change the policy regarding the stopping of vehicles by off-duty police officers, and the use of blue grill lights,” former Honolulu police homicide Lt. Gary Dias said.

On Jan. 31, 1982, 10 days after her car was found abandoned in Kailua, a jogger and his dog found Au’s body in the brush on Tantalus in Makiki. Her body was naked and decomposing.

“Her body was decomposed to the point where it was not possible to identify the cause of death, so to this day, we don’t know how Lisa died,” Dias said.

Still, her death was classified as a homicide.

But no one was ever arrested or charged with her murder.

The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office told KHON2 there was not enough evidence to support a charge.

“Several theories have emerged that she was on her way home when she was stopped and abducted from that Kailua location, or that she was killed elsewhere, and the vehicle was staged in Kailua to make it look like that’s where she was stopped,” Dias said.

There’s no statute of limitations on murder, so the case is still open.

But it would take new information or witnesses coming forward for police or prosecutors to start investigating it again.

“Cold cases that take years and years and years sometimes do develop new evidence or confessions,” Dias said.

Au’s murder case went cold more than 30 years ago, and her parents have since both passed away.

But it’s a case many people in Hawaii have never forgotten about.

“Everyone who knew her that we spoke to would describe her as being someone who was just an ideal young lady, an ideal daughter, somebody you’d never think this would happen to,” Dias said.

If you have any new information regarding the Lisa Au murder case, or any information that can help investigators solve it, contact the Honolulu Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at (808) 723-3609.