Big Island police have reclassified a coroner's inquest case to a murder investigation in connection with the discovery of a body Tuesday in waters off Kalapana in the Puna District. The body was accidentally snagged by a fishing line from a boat that was drifting nearby.
An autopsy conducted Wednesday determined the female victim died of strangulation and that the manner of death was homicide. Lt. Gregory Esteban, a detective with the police department's Area 1 Criminal Investigations Section, told KITV4 the manner of death could signify a crime of passion.
"We can't comment on motive at this point, but that historically can be true," he said.
Police have not yet identified the body, described as that of a Caucasian woman possibly in her late 20s or early 30s, about 5-feet-4-inches-tall to 5-feet-8-inches-tall with a slim build, short brown hair and a tattoo of "Veritas" on her lower back.
Esteban said the investigation is trying to determine if the woman's body entered the ocean at a different location than where it was discovered, about two miles from an area where lava enters the ocean.
"We do have a scene per say, as far as where there's evidence of someone camping there, but we're still trying to establish an actual crime scene," said Esteban. "Due to the condition of the body, it does not appear that the victim was in the water that long."
The murder is stretching already thin police resources on the Big Island. Esteban said there have been 11 murders or attempted murders since December.
"Unfortunately, we've had a busy past few months," said the detective. "It is absolutely unprecedented in Hawaii County."
Police ask that anyone who may know the victim or have information on this latest murder case to contact Detective Robert Almeida at 961-2386 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Detective Fetuutuunai Amuimuia can also be contacted at 961-2278 or by email at email@example.com.
Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.