WAILUKU — One week after a 35-year-old Haiku woman went missing, police said there are no “red flags” or evidence pointing to foul play in the disappearance of Amanda Eller.
“At this point there is no data to indicate anything other than a missing person (case),” Assistant Police Chief Victor Ramos said at a press conference at the Maui Police Department in Wailuku on Thursday afternoon. “But keep in mind that CID (Criminal Investigation Division) has a lot of resources in the event it turns in that direction.”
A massive interagency search began May 9 for Eller, a physical therapist and yoga instructor who was last seen at around 10:19 a.m. mailing a package at the Haiku Post Office, police said. Her 2015 white Toyota RAV4 left the post office parking lot at 10:21 a.m., according to police.
Her vehicle was later seen at around noon on May 8 at the gravel parking lot near the “Hunter’s Trail”at the Makawao Forest Reserve, where friends say she often liked to run and hike.
The vehicle was still there on the morning of May 9, when police were called by her boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, to report Eller’s disappearance. Police said Konkol voluntarily took a polygraph test and passed, and is currently not a person of interest.
Various state, federal and county agencies, including the Maui police and fire departments, along with hundreds of volunteers, have been intensively searching the Makawao Forest Reserve ever since. Authorities suspended their official search Sunday but have continued to receive tips and are following up on leads. On Tuesday, authorities picked up the search again when a 911 call was received from an area above Makawao Forest Reserve about possible additional information, but nothing was found, Ramos said.
A helicopter with infrared technology has been used along with scent-detecting dogs.
So far, helicopters have flown for 20 hours in search of Eller, and off-duty firefighters also joined the search, along with rescue crews who have rappelled in steep areas, said Assistant Fire Chief Richard Kawasaki.
“We have a lot, a lot of people from the community, daily, hundreds have come down, very focused and passionate to locate Dr. Eller,” Ramos said. “I just want to really emphasize that the search that is taking place, not only with civilians, fire and police, has been very thorough.”
“Of course we are always asking ourselves, have we been really effective and searched everywhere we can? I like to say yes, and there is always that question. But that is not going to stop us from looking or responding to now, tips, possible leads,” Ramos added.
Detective Dennis Clifton reported that police have received at least 150 phone calls with tips, in addition to Facebook posts and emails. Police are also receiving any tips the family gets.
There are 15 detective working on the case as well as the special response team, patrol officers and community relations officers.
Ramos said detectives have been busy “determining her path of travel in Haiku.”
He said initially police were concerned when they found shopping bags out in the open in her vehicle, along with her purse and cellphone. But they later learned after speaking with friends that this was a common practice to “unplug” while hiking.
There were also no signs of a struggle around the car to indicate foul play. The vehicle was also processed by police, who found “nothing suspicious, no red flags,” Ramos said.
Ramos acknowledged that Sarah Haynes, a spokesperson for Eller’s search, also has been questioned and is not a person of interest.
Police also said Eller did not have any other known love interest and that they were continuing to look over her cellphone records.
Clifton said that May 8 was Eller’s day off and that she did not have any plans, according to her phone calendar.
One of Eller’s friends planned to visit her but canceled after the friend’s kitten got run over the night before.
Police also said there was nothing suspicious found at Eller’s Haiku home.
Eller’s disappearance has been widely debated and speculated on social media and through a Facebook page “Findamanda,” where tips are being posted as well as updates on the search and public reaction. Police said they appreciate the tips on social media.
Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said that Eller’s parents John and Julia, along with her siblings Alicia and Chris, are on island looking for her.
“We will exhaust all resources available to us as we look for Amanda,” he said.
“Please continue to share any information that may help us and together we will bring Amanda home.”
Police are looking to identify and contact people who may have been in the Makawao Forest Reserve on May 8 and could offer additional information.
Around 12:12 p.m., an early 2000s model, medium blue Dodge Ram full-size pickup truck, which appeared to be a work truck, was observed parked next to Eller’s vehicle.
A white Toyota van operated by an older male with two dogs was also in the area just prior to the time Eller’s vehicle was observed.
And, 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.
Anyone who was in the Makawao Forest Reserve on May 8 should contact Detective Dennis Clifton at 244-6433 or Detective John Surina at 244-6423.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.