Search for Amanda Eller Highlights: Official Timeline, Media Q&A
By Wendy Osher
Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu opened a press conference on Thursday with a message to the family of missing person, 35-year-old Amanda Eller. “To the Ellers ʻohana, I pledge our commitment that the Maui Police Department will exhaust all resources available to us as we look for Amanda.”
“I can’t say enough of Amanda’s support of our community and volunteers who came out on their own searching, and spending many hours walking many miles, looking for Amanda,” said Chief Faaumu. “The Mission of the Maui Police Department is to keep our community safe. Please continue to share any information that may help us. Together we will bring Amanda home.”
Police provided an official timeline and have cleared her boyfriend Benjamin Konkol as a person of interest at this time, saying he took a polygraph test and passed. The Maui Police Department is asking ANYONE who was at the Makawao Forest Reserve on Wednesday, May 8, to contact police. That’s where Eller’s vehicle was found.
“It was reported that an early 2000’s model, medium blue Dodge Ram full sized pickup truck, which appeared to be a work truck, was observed parked next to Amanda’s vehicle within the Hunter’s Gate parking lot on May 8th at around 12:12 p.m. It was also reported that a white Toyota van operated by an older male with two dogs was in the area just prior to the time that Amanda’s vehicle was observed. Also, a couple in their 30s to 40s, who appeared to be tourists, were observed hiking in the area.”
Police are looking to identify and contact these people for any information they may have. They also fielded questions from the media. We have provided the official police timeline and media questions and answers in the section below:
May 8, 2019 (Wednesday)
- Amanda was last seen on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at approximately 10:19 a.m. at the Haʻikū Post Office, mailing a package.
- Video footage was obtained of Amanda’s vehicle, a 2015 white Toyota Rav4, leaving the Haʻikū Post Office parking lot at 10:21 a.m.
- Additional checks found video surveillance at the Haʻikū Market where Amanda was observed between 10:06 a.m. and 10:11 a.m. purchasing several items. She is alone at this time, according to police.
- Amanda is observed wearing a white tank top, blue yoga pants and black slippers (flip-flops).
- At approximately 12:12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, Amanda’s Toyota Rav4, license plate number LEZ110 is observed within the gravel parking lot near the “Hunter’s Trail” at the Makawao Forest Reserve by off duty Maui Fire Department personnel, who had gone for a hike.
- At approximately 7 p.m., Parks personnel checked the parking lots prior to securing the entrance gate to the park, and observed the white Toyota Rav4 in the Hunter’s Gate parking lot. Attempts to contact anyone in the area met with negative results.
May 9, 2019 (Thursday)
- On Thursday, May 9, 2019 at about 7:21 a.m., the Maui Police Department was contacted by Amanda’s boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, who reported her missing. Benjamin described several possible locations that Amanda liked to frequent, including the Makawao Forest Reserve.
- Maui Police Department patrol officers made checks of the Makawao Forest Reserve and located Amanda’s vehicle within the Hunter’s Gate parking lot on May 9, 2019 at about 9:50 a.m.
- Maui Fire Department personnel responded to that location, along with Benjamin Konkol, arriving at about 10:30 a.m.
- The key to Amanda’s vehicle was located hidden beneath the vehicle. Checks of the interior found her purse on the front passenger floor, which contained her cellular telephone, wallet, identification and credit cards.
- A backpack and full water bottle were found on the front passenger seat.
- A pair of black flip-flop type slippers were found on the front passenger floor. Per Amanda’s boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, Amanda’s running shoes were not at their residence.
- Police say no obvious signs of a struggle were noted at the that time.
- The Maui Police Department is asking ANYONE who was at the Makawao Forest Reserve on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 to please contact Detective Dennis Clifton at (808) 244-6433 or Detective John Surina at (808) 244-6423.
- Additionally, it was reported that an early 2000’s model, medium blue Dodge Ram full sized pickup truck, which appeared to be a work truck, was observed parked next to Amanda’s vehicle within the Hunter’s Gate parking lot on May 8 at about 12:12 p.m. It was also reported that a white Toyota van operated by an older male with two dogs was in the area just prior to the time that Amanda’s vehicle was observed. Also, a Caucasian couple in their 30s to 40s, who appeared to be tourists, were also observed hiking in the area. Police are looking to identify and contact these people for any information they may have.
- Benjamin Konkol has been cleared as a Person of Interest at this time through investigation and voluntarily took a Polygraph Examination, which he passed, according to police.
- Amanda’s vehicle has been processed by Evidence Technicians and no signs of foul play were found within the vehicle.
- No signs or evidence of foul play have been noted at this time. Police continue to investigate all credible leads.
Maui Fire Battalion Chief Rylan Yatsushiro said, “Upon initial dispatch on Thursday, May 9, at 9:58 a.m, the Maui Fire Department utilized all resources at our disposal to assist police with searching the area in question. These resources included ground search crews and air assets with infrared capability. We will continue to support the Maui Police Department with search efforts based on all information and all leads presented to us.”
Assistant Police Chief Victor Ramos and Detective Dennis Clifton fielded media questions during a Q&A session.
IS THERE AN ACTIVE SEARCH: “Police and fire did search for the first few days into the weekend and intermittently on Monday, Wednesday, and off-and-on depending on the kind of information received we picked up based on possibilities and leads,” said AC Ramos.
TRACKING DOGS: “We did use our dogs, his name is Jack, to pick up a scent. I can’t really give you exact details about where he dropped the scent. But aside from that dog, we’ve used other dogs–I would say at least three or four more dogs, but we still came up with nothing,” said AC Ramos.
9-1-1 CALLS: “As of this time, probably we received at least 150 phone calls. That’s also in addition to Facebook posts, emails… And the family are also receiving phone calls and I’m following up as well. We’ve been going through them. I’ve been working every day to call back everybody that calls me. Delegating that information out to other officers and other detectives to follow up on if it seems like credible info,” said Detective Clifton.
HOW MANY PERSONNEL ARE INVOLVED: “Just in our office, our entire person’s department/section and the property department is assisting us, so approximately 15 detectives, in addition to members of our Special Response Team as well as patrol and community relations,” said Det. Clifton.
AC Ramos also responded saying, “We have a Homicide Unit, a segment that is called Crimes Against Persons that are working the case. What they’re looking for data, whether it’s computer or cell phone–anything like that, that can help us identify where she is or where she was–anything at this point.”
EXPLANATION OF GAP IN RESPONSE TIME: As you can see from the presentation, it’s very basic, the information that we have. We know that a call for service came in at about 7:20 (a.m.)… you notice we went up to the reserve at around 9:50 (a.m.), so to clarify that gap there, officers responded to the call for service and went to the house first to identify, to document basically the initial case, and from there, once we were told the location that she may be, that’s when the officers went out and located the vehicle in the Makawao Forest Reserve. So that explains the delay, the gap between 7:20 and 9:50.”
ANY MORE IMAGES OF AMANDA: “Detectives were pretty busy determining her path of travel in Haʻikū, in Makawao, and they basically went to a lot of different stores to try and see if there’s any kind of video that can track her. But at this point, to answer your question, we don’t have anything updated, as far as what you saw today,” said AC Ramos.
ANY PRIOR REPORTS OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY IN FOREST/IS IT SAFE: “I’d say the area is very safe. It’s a beautiful location. As far as a history of criminality, nothing recent. I can go back and check on that, but it’s very safe,” said AC Ramos.
IS THERE EVIDENCE THAT SHE WALKED AWAY FROM HER CAR: “We did find the vehicle. We did recover the vehicle. When we looked around the car, we didn’t find any sign of struggle or anything that would indicate foul play. We recovered the vehicle because we thought initially that it was a little bit strange that her phone was in the car, her purse was in the car. Typically, we haven’t run across that where hikers leave their stuff, their property in the vehicle… we did process the vehicle and found out… there was nothing suspicious or no red flags to indicate anything,” said AC Ramos.
WHERE WERE CELL AND PURSE PLACED/ ANYTHING OF SIGNIFICANCE IN SEARCH OF THE HOME: “So the purse with the cell phone and her wallet was on the front passenger floorboard along with two other shopping bags, out in the open. The windows were not tinted, so anybody looking in would have seen that there. Her backpack with her water bottle was sitting on the front passenger seat. We did search the house found nothing of interest in the house at all,” said Det. Clifton.
DOES THAT STRIKE YOU AS ODD THAT HER PURSE AND PHONE WERE LEFT ON THE FLOORBOARD: “Not after speaking to her friends,” said Det. Clifton. AC Ramos also responded saying, “That’s why I brought up initially that we thought that was suspicious… That’s why we sent our detectives up. But when detectives spoke to her friends, it’s what they do when they hike, they unplug, essentially leave their valuables in the car and just enjoy the hike with no interruptions,” said AC Ramos.
WHAT ABOUT THE 9-1-1 CALL FROM 5.14.19: “We did receive a call from someone that was part of the community that was searching up in the mountains. And we were unable to search that night. If you’re familiar with that area, it gets dark pretty quickly. We were able to send up a team of officers from our Special Response Team as well as a cadaver dog, or a scent dog. And they thoroughly search the area and was not able to find anything of significance,” said AC Ramos.
FAMILY REQUESTED NATIONAL GUARD; WHO OUTSIDE OF FIRE AND POLICE ARE ASSISTING WITH SEARCH: “Regarding the National Guard, that’s not an organization that you would typically ask for help because they’re used for natural disasters and stuff like that. Really only the governor can call out, as he is the commander in chief. But having said that, a lot, a lot of people from the community, daily hundreds of people coming out. Very focused and passionate to locate Dr. Eller. And so, I just really want to emphasize that the search that has taken place not only with the civilians, but fire and police, it’s been very thorough. And of course, we’re always asking ourselves, can we really, have we been really effective and searched every where that we can. We’d like to say yes, but there’s always that question. But that’s not going to stop us from looking or responding to now, tips, possible leads into the area,” said AC Ramos.
IF ELLER WENT FOR A SHORT HIKE, WOULDN’T IT STAND TO REASON WE’D GET MORE THAN THE SMALL SCENT FOUND ON THE FIRST DAY?: “Yes, It would. What we have to be careful to follow the facts and the data, and at this point, there is no data to indicate anything other than a missing person. But, keep in mind that CID (Criminal Investigation Division) has put a lot of resources in the event this investigation turns in that direction,” said AC Ramos.
PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW THE FIRE DEPARTMENT UTILIZED INFRARED TECHNOLOGY: “It was not a drone. It was operated through helicopter, or Air 1 helicopter and also I believe Pacific Helicopters did a couple of flights,” said Assistant Chief Richard Kawasaki from the Maui Fire Department, who noted the infrared did not pick up on anything. “Apparently, the technology of that flare unit is really accurate and it shows birds and bee hives, which I was surprised we learned,” said AC Kawasaki.
WHAT IS THE FIRE DEPARTMENT DOING ABOUT GETTING A CHOPPER UP IN THE AIR REGULARLY? WHAT’S HAPPENING?: “We did our initial search and after that we’ve been coming out as we get leads/tips from the public or police. So we are sending out our off duty guys. We put out a notice for them to come back to see if they want to come out and assist with the search. We have been sending out guys every day. I’m not sure the exact number, but our helicopter has flown close to 20 hours right now,” said AC Kawasaki.
HOW BIG OF AN AREA HAS BEEN SEARCHED?: “This map that we brought. We’ve covered, I can not say every square inch of this forest reserve here, and even outside of this yellow line here. If you come look at it close you see this track that we have is the track of the infrared unit that was flown with the helicopter. So with our efforts, police, dogs, civilians, volunteers, we feel that this area is pretty well saturated so that’s why we have only been coming out when we get new information. We also have had our rescue team rappel into areas for a report of a possible shoe at one point. They’ve also—we’ve inserted people into where we had a possible hit with the infrared. We brought the people in with a helicopter, dropped them off, they did a ground search and were unable to find anything,” said AC Kawasaki.
ANY ESTIMATE ON THE SIZE (SQUARE MILES)?: “I want to say from where the car was to up her is probably two miles… and so two-by-three square mile area is just a guess. We could figure that out accurately if needed,” said AC Kawasaki.
WHAT DOES AMANDA’S TEXT RECORDS SHOW? WHAT HAPPENED WITH REPORTS OF PLANS THAT SHE MADE THAT WERE CANCELED?: “She did have plans that day, initially to be with a friend. They had recently moved into the house in Haʻikū where they’re living. A friend was going to come out to see the house, but her kitten was run over sometime during the night, so the friend was distraught and wanted to cancel the plans. Other than that, as far as we know, she had no plans for that day—nothing in her phone; nothing in her calendar. And it was her day off from work,” said Det. Clifton.
WAS THERE ANY RECORD OF REPEATED CALLS THAT EVENING?: “We’re still in the process of going through her phone and parsing the data,” said Det. Clifton.
ANY INDICATION OF ROMANTIC INVOLVEMENT WITH ANYONE ELSE WITH DR. ELLER OTHER THAN BENJAMIN?: “No.”
PROTOCOL REPORTING ON VEHICLES LEFT IN AREA OF CLOSED GATE: “My understanding is that they have a hotline that they call into. So when we spoke to the parks people, they said that they honked the horn. One person got out of the car and walked down the trail calling calling out asking if anybody was in the area. They received no response. They noted the license plate and then called it in to their hotline,” said Det. Clifton.
IS THERE A POSSIBILITY SHE WAS NOT IN THE CAR ALONE?: “We’re considering everything that we can at this point,” said AC Ramos.
DO POLICE/FIRE SUPPORT THE VOLUNTEER SEARCH EFFORT?: “Absolutely, we are very grateful for them taking time and them being very passionate about finding Dr. Eller,” said AC Ramos.
WHAT ABOUT THE GPS OVERLAY?: “All of that has been very helpful for us,” said AC Ramos.
ANY INDICATION IT COULD BE RELATED TO OTHER MISSING WOMEN CASES ON MAUI?: “We have no indication, no facts, no evidence to say that that’s the case,” said Maui police.