Hawaii September 09, 2017
The Mystery Of Hawaii’s Honolulu Strangler Still Baffles People Today
While Hawaii is often considered to be safer than many locales in the continental United States, the Aloha State isn’t all rainbows and tropical flowers. This is evidenced by a grisly unsolved murder case that dates back more than thirty years on the beautiful island of Oahu. Hawaii’s first known serial killer — the Honolulu Strangler — was responsible for the murders of five women between 1985 and 1986, and was never caught.
The five victims were found with their hands bound behind their backs, sexually assaulted and strangled. The strangler’s victims ranged in ages between 17 and 36 and came from different walks of life.
The first victim was Vicki Gail Purdy, a 25 year old married to Gary Purdy, an army helicopter pilot. She had left to go clubbing in Waikiki on May 29, 1985. She was last seen alive by a taxi driver who drove her to the Shorebird Hotel at midnight, apparently to retrieve her car. The car was later found in the parking lot, and her body was discovered the next morning on an embankment at Keehi Lagoon, pictured above.
A 17-year-old Leilehua High School student was the Strangler’s next victim. Regina Sakamoto missed her bus on the morning of January 14, 1986, and called her boyfriend at 7:15 a.m. to tell him she would be late. Her body was discovered the next day, partially unclothed, her hands bound, and strangled. The second case led police to suspect the same killer due to a nearly identical modus operandi.
Just two weeks later, on January 30, 21-year-old Denise Hughes, a secretary for a telephone company who commuted by bus, did not show up for work. Her body was found in Moanalua Stream (pictured above) by three fishermen on February 1. It was after the third body was discovered that a serial killer task force was established to hunt the man now referred to as the "Honolulu Strangler" or the "Honolulu Rapist."
25-year-old Louise Medeiros had gone to Kauai to meet her family after the death of her mother. On March 26, 1986, she took a red-eye flight back to Oahu and told her family she would take a bus from the airport to her home in Waipahu. She disembarked the airplane and was never seen again. Her decomposing body was found near Waikele Stream by road workers on April 2: her body was found in the same manner as the others. Police tried to set up sting operations using policewomen around both the Honolulu International Airport and Keehi Lagoon.
The fifth and last-known victim was Linda Pesce (pictured above), a 36-year-old woman who, according to her roommate, left home on the morning of April 29 and was expected home late that evening due to a work meeting. Her roommate reported her missing the next morning when Linda failed to show up for work and her car was found parked on the side of the Nimitz-H1 viaduct.
An unidentified 43-year-old caucasian man came forward to police, telling them that a psychic told him a body was at Sand Island. On May 3, the informant took police officers to an exact location, but was wrong. Pesce’s body was found in a different area on the island: she was naked with her hands tied behind her back. With help from the FBI and the Green River task force, the Honolulu Police Department set up a 27-person task force to find the Honolulu Strangler. The killer was profiled as an opportunist, attacking vulnerable women – who were, for example, waiting at bus stops – as opposed to a killer who stalked his victims. It was also thought that he lived or worked in the area of the attacks, Waipahu, or Sand Island.
At the time of Pesce’s murder, the police set up roadblocks to question frequent commuters. Witnesses came forward to say that they had seen a light-colored van and a Caucasian or mixed-race man with Pesce’s car. Upon discovery of Pesce’s body, the informant was arrested as the primary suspect on May 9.
He was described as "Caucasian, middle aged, clean cut, receding hairline, black glasses, polite" by an assistant manager and waitress at the La Mariana Sailing Club who recounted that he was a regular customer who seemed to be a little too interested in her at the time. She matched his victim type: petite and brunette. One day, she was extremely tired at the end of her shift and he tried to convince her to let him give her a ride home: instead, a local biker who the waitress had gotten to know drove her home on the back of his motorcycle. A few days later, as she recounts in a
, he was hauled off in cuffs.
The suspect’s ex-wife and girlfriend both provided a potentially incriminating fetish clue: they had both engaged in bondage activity with the suspect, allowing him to tie them up and have sex while their hands were bound behind their back. His girlfriend said that on nights after they fought, he would leave the house: these were allegedly the same nights as the murders. The suspect lived in Ewa Beach, and worked as a mechanic. The suspect was interrogated, failed a polygraph test, and was eventually released due to a lack of concrete evidence.
Police followed the suspect, and a $25,000 reward for information was put out by private businesses. Two months after the suspect’s arrest, a woman came forward claiming that she saw Pesce with a man on the night of her murder. She successfully picked the suspect out of a photo lineup. The police believed they had found their killer, but due to circumstantial evidence, the unidentified suspect was never charged. Rumor has it that the suspect actually got off on a technicality, moved to California shortly after his release and died in 2005.
To this day, no one has been charged or convicted in these five gruesome murders. Do you think the police let the guilty man slip away? Or was it someone else?
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