A Dark Day in Hawai’i | Lisa Au
In The Episode
You're listening to Facing Evil, a production of iHeart Radio and TenderfootTV. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the individuals participating in the show, and do not represent those of iHeart Radio or TenderfootTV. This podcast contains subject matter which may not be suitable for everyone. Listener discretion is advised.
Hello everyone, welcome or "e komo mai" which means welcome in Hawaiian to the very first episode of our new podcast Facing Evil from TenderfootTV and iHeart Radio. We are your hosts, I'm Rasha Pecoraro.
And I'm Yvette Gentille.
And some of you may already be familiar with our voices from our hit podcast Root of Evil, the true story of the Hodel family and the Black Dahlia. Root of Evil is where we talked about our family's history and connection to George Hodel who happened to be the prime suspect in the Black Dahlia Murder case, which is also known as the Elizabeth Short murder case. We've known about our crazy dark family history our entire lives. But Yvette and I are so thankful that we had our beautiful mother Fauna Hodel, a woman who rose above her difficult and crazy upbringing. And she always looked for the best in all of the people around her. And we've always found the light in the dark because of her.
And that is what we are going to do with this new podcast. Right? That's right. So each week, we're going to be joined by our amazing producer, Mr. Trevor Young.
And we're going to discuss true crime stories that we think need to be brought into the light. And we're going to share our own unique perspective on the cases and people involved. And throughout the season, we're also going to be joined by some very special guests that are sharing their stories. And we'll hear from others that can shed light on particular cases.
So since we are sisters, contrary to popular belief, we do not have the same opinion, a lot of the time. But we have beautiful conversations, we tease each other. And you know, we just want you all to come along on this journey with us.
Yes, we do. So with that being said, let's get to our first case, the case of Lisa Au, a 19 year old woman who went missing in Hawai'i in 1982. Since this is our first episode, we wanted to share a story from a place that is very personal to us. This is home, this is Hawai'i.
And most people think of our beautiful hometown in Honolulu, Hawai'i as a paradise, which it absolutely is. But it's really a place just like any other. And it's not free from crime, murder or other horrible tragedies.
Right. So this is sort of a double edged sword of an episode. While we're so happy to be talking about our home. We're also turning over a few stones and looking at the darker side of what is usually a very sunny place. Each week, our producer Trevor is going to come in and give us a rundown on a case. So now let's hear about Lisa Au.
Well, it's one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in Hawai'i who killed Lisa Au. She was on her way home when she was stopped and abducted from that Kailua location. If you're old enough, you remember the fear that spread through the community when a policeman was suspected. Law enforcement pursued that theory for years overlooking other evidence.
Lisa Au was born on July 25 1982, to Chester Dennis Au and Patrice Mahiaikalani Akima Au-Ka’uamano. Lisa was of Chinese, Hawaiian, and European descent. She was raised on the island of Oahu and after high school, she pursued a career as a hairstylist. After attending a training program at Trendsetter’s Beauty College, Lisa started working as a hairdresser at the Susan Beers Salon in Kailua in Honolulu County. She was there for about five weeks before she went missing. Around this time, she was dating a University of Hawai'i student named Doug Holmes. And on the evening of July 21 1982, Lisa went to see her boyfriend Doug at his sister's apartment at 12:20am. Lisa called her roommate to say she'd be coming home soon. But Lisa never came home that night. The next morning, they found Lisa's car parked on the side of a road. But Lisa was nowhere to be found. It would be another 10 days before a jogger would come across Lisa's decomposed remains on the other side of the island. So, what happened to Lisa? And how could something so gruesome happen in a beautiful place like Hawai'i?
It's heartbreaking to me that anything like this happened, you know, and I think, you know, our mom's sheltered us so much that we, we didn't see a whole lot of crime. I mean, you know, I mean, I had to, like, ask one of my dear friends, like, who's also Hawai'in, and I'm like, do you know of any murders or anything? And she told me about Lisa. And when I looked it up, I mean, I was too little. But Yvette, you were like, 14,15.
Yeah, I was. I was 15. And I, I remember a little bit, I mean, you know, all of us living through a pandemic. It's like, trying to go back in my brain and remember things is a whole nother story. But I do remember, you know, Mom was driving into town. So from where we lived Pearl City, right? driving all the way into town. And there was this, this thing going on about, you know, being afraid women being afraid to be pulled over by police. So I do remember some of that connecting the dots. Yeah, yeah. Connecting the dots right to this particular case.
But growing up there, y'all didn't really kind of have the feeling that it was unsafe to be in Hawai'i, or the crime or murder were things that really happened.
Oh, not at all.
I'd never heard ever heard or like, that's why I had to like ask around.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, we and we left our doors unlocked all the time. And, you know, left our screen doors open. So no, not at all. And that's why this case really hits home for us because it centers around Kailua in Hawai'i, not far from where we grew up. You know, and we actually lived in Kailua. And
One of the many places we lived with mom.
Yeah, I lived. I lived all over the island. Yes, yes.
And, you know, Hawai'i like Trevor, you said like, it is really one of the safest places in the United States. And it's seen, you know, a decline in violent crime over, you know, the last few years. It's currently placed 44th Out of the 50 states in the list of violent crimes per capita. But that was not always the case, especially in the 70s and 80s. And many people may not know that violent crimes in Hawai'i increased sharply in the 1970s and actually peaked in the 1980s.
Right. And even though we were growing up in Hawai'i, Mom sheltered us from all of that. I mean, she kept us busy, 24/7, overprotective, and all type of activities. So we weren't sitting at home, you know, watching TV 24/7. But there was a huge influx of new people moving to the islands. And of course, with that, there's more crime.
Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, the uptick in crime in the 70s and 80s. I mean, that was happening across the country at the time, the 70s. And 80s. Were just particularly dangerous. There was just a huge uptick in crime, murder, robbery, all throughout that period. And so yeah, I think you're ready to just kind of came to Hawai'i, along with people moving there, you know, throughout that decade. And sadly, this is really the same time period that, you know, Lisa alga is missing, and everything happens to her. So yeah, I guess even though it is a safe place. Unfortunately, for Lisa, you know, she happened to be a young woman at a time when there was, as you're describing, you know, all these new people and all this new crime coming to the island.
Exactly. So let's look closer at the night that Lisa Au actually went missing, which was January 20. So Lisa had worked a shift at the hair salon, and by the time her shift was over, or we would say, Pau Hana, which means you're done with work. So when she was Pau Hana, it was pouring rain outside. This is something that's normal. On the Kailua side, the windward side of the island, It always rains. So she just got in her temporary driver's license, so maybe she wasn't the most experienced driver. Regardless, she decided to brave the rain and go see her boyfriend Doug and Doug was having dinner at his sister's apartment in Makiki on the other side of town, so Makiki is right next to Waikiki. It's probably a good 35 minute drive from the salon where Lisa was working. So it's kind of a trek in the rain. Her coworkers said later that there was nothing different about Lisa that night she was her friendly, bubbly, kind self. And Lisa ended up leaving work at nine o'clock. And like so many of us in Hawai'i since she was going to dinner and going somewhere. She can't go empty handed so she stopped at the grocery store to get poke. And if you don't know what poke is, you're living under a rock because it is crack. I mean, I think it's made its way onto the mainland. Now there's poke bowls, but back then you could just go and you'd get it from the deli. And it's the most delicious raw fish soaked in show you are soy sauce and onions. And it's just amazing, but I'm sorry, I'm Yeah, yeah,
You're making my mouth water.
I know, I'm going out on a tangent. But anyway, so Lisa and her poke arrived at her boyfriend's sister's house, and her name was Kristen. And she arrived for a late dinner. And she ended up leaving that night, about 1220. So this is now turning into Thursday, January 21.
So Kristen actually offered to let Lisa stay with her for the night. So she didn't have to drive back in the rain. But Lisa declined, but she did call her roommate to let her know that she was on her way home. Right. And so Doug would he would later testify that he and Lisa left his sister's apartment at the same time. But they left in different cars. So they both went in their own cars. Doug went back to the University of Hawai'i dorm. And he thought it was just a normal night until the very next morning, when he got a call from Lisa's parents asking where was Lisa?
Yeah, I guess nobody really knew by this point. You know, it's now the morning of January 21. Lisa, still not back. So finally, it's her roommates who are super concerned, you know, early morning by this point. And they are the ones who contact the police. They reported her missing. And the rest of this information comes from Hawai'i news now who did a lot of really good reporting at the time. But according to them, Doug went out to look for Lisa. And he's the one that reported to police that he found her car and her car was a 1976 Toyota. It was parked on the shoulder of the highway in Maunawili if I am getting that right?
Maunawili, very close.
We're working on my Hawaiian.
You’re a good Texan I'm telling you.
Right. So anyways, the car was parked on the shoulder of the highway in Maunawili near the old Kailua drive in which sounds fun.
It was fun. It was open. It was spooky. very spooky. Yeah.
The driving was only about two miles from her apartment though. And just about 100 yards from a public telephone. So when they found her car, the car battery had actually died. But they were able to determine that the windshield wipers and the parking lights had been left on by Lisa or whoever. Also the driver side window was about halfway down. And the responding officer also reported that there was about two to three inches of water on the floor of the car. And so the seat and the rest of the car was just completely soaked, drenched, covered in water.
And the crazy thing about that, Trevor is that her purse was still on the seat and it was completely dry. And I know for me, and I'm sure for you Rasha too. Like we would never leave our purse. Never. If we were stranded somewhere or something happened. That would be the first thing that we would grab. Right?
Absolutely. And I'm just going to say my conspiracy mind that should not have been a dry purse. You know, like say she was abducted and grabbed like, I'm sorry, the purse is going to be drenched too.
Of course, it's pouring rain. It's pouring rain. And they're, you know,
It's very fishy. And as we know, there are no signs of Lisa, or what happened to her.
All right, well, we need to take a quick break. So after a couple of very fun ads, we'll come back and talk about what the police found. And some of the people they interviewed.
So coming back to this case, the search for Lisa began almost immediately after her car was found. And that's something you have to know about the people of Hawai'i they come together, they distributed thousands of fliers, Officials and volunteers scoured surrounding areas including the nearby Kawainui Marsh, throughout Kailua, and Kaneohe and Waimanalo. So, just to give you some perspective on this, this is on the windward side of the island. This is where Lisa worked, where she lived is where her car was found. So they were only focusing on that side of the island. Even though she had been on the town side of the island, the Makai side in Makiki, the night before she ended up going missing. So that's a big piece of that puzzle here, right? Sadly, though, there were multiple days that passed without any ransom calls, any letters coming in. No one saw any clues about Lisa and that had police officers and the people of Hawai'i fearing the worst. So on January 31, a man was jogging with His dog on Tantalus Drive and Tantalus is not too far from Waikiki. And it's a place that only locals go. It's beautiful. You can see all of Waikiki and all of you know the Makai side of the island. But it's a local spot, tourists don't go there.
Yeah, they do not. They wouldn't know how to get there. No, unless they were with a local.
Exactly. So this jogger was up on Tantalus Drive, and he actually stumbled across human remains. The body was found in some brush down a deep ravine on the side of the road. She was nude, and the remains were severely decomposed. And remember, this was January 31. And she only went missing on January 21. So it was officially later confirmed to be Lisa Au. But the state of decomposition was so advanced, that the coroner was not able to determine a cause of death. And still, like I don't understand, like to this day, 40 years later. Like they still don't know what happened. It just makes me so sad. And Trevor didn't the homicide detectives also have issues with how the coroner even handled the autopsy to begin with?
Yeah, it turns out the body was actually looked at a number of times as a result of a kind of poor autopsy job the first time but anyways, Hawai'i News Now has a really great article on this. And they talked about how Detective Burt Corniel, who was largely in charge of this case, really didn't think that the coroner did a thorough job on that first autopsy. So they ended up exhuming Lisa's body in 1983 for a second autopsy. And they wanted to see if they could try and determine a cause of death the second time because they didn't get it the first time. What they did end up finding was not great, pretty troubling. In fact, they found that Lisa's body was still inside the police body bag that they put it in, and the release and dirt and trash like in the bag and in her hair. It was just like a mess. The detective also reported that her body had never even been washed, which is wild. So anyways, even after this autopsy, though, the investigators couldn't identify a cause of death. Sadly.
That's just crazy, right? Like, is it incompetence? Or was it planned that way?
Hmm. It's possible. I mean, I think a big part of it too, is anytime a body has been out for days and days at a time, like your chances of being able to determine how they died is infinitely less each passing day, especially if it's outside and it's, you know, surrounded by brush in nature, it's going to decompose a lot faster. And that's this 10 days, you know, right not to, you know, excuse the way the body was treated and kind of poorly examined. But I guess to me, all I'm saying is I'm not surprised that they weren't able to determine a cause of death regardless of how the body was stored.
And it's so heartbreaking to know that Lisa was treated that way because death, even though it's heartbreaking, it can be sacred, right? But I'm sure that her family was you know, in the depths of their grief and grief,
Didn't open,who knows, maybe they told them to have a closed casket funeral. Who knows but that, it makes me very sad. I do know for a fact that she is now buried at the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe Bay side and it's absolutely stunning. So at least I know she has a beautiful final resting place.
Yeah, it's one of the most beautiful places actually on the island. So she is on sacred grounds now.
Yeah. So there were actually some witnesses from that night. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin actually reported that several police officers remembered seeing Lisa's car on the side of the road. And they saw a man and a woman on the side of the car. A few different theories came out about what happened to Lisa. One was that she was abducted on her way home potentially killed elsewhere and that the car was staged, which I think we all three can be in agreement that that's probably what happened.
Yeah, that to me that is obviously wanting to present what happened. I mean, the crime scene tech said that least his car had been wiped clean of any evidence right. And the officer thought that her purse being dry. Which, right we all think was questionable. Hello. And that had been put there on the seat after the rain stop that night. Yeah. Yeah. No, mon million percent. Yeah. No. So additionally, there was another person who testified and her name was Charlotte Kamaka. And she was a newspaper delivery driver. She was on her route. And she said that she saw a man about 2:30 in the morning, he was in a blue car. And he had a female passenger who appeared to be asleep or unconscious. She also said that the head was bobbing back and forth, you know. And she was her route was the Pali highway. So that's a windy road. Right Rash like,
Right, I remember. Yeah, I remember watching. I think they talked about it on Hawai’i News Now and actually another local podcast I was listening to that interviewed Charlotte Kamaka, before she passed, because she gave that interview with the grand jury. And she said that she saw the head bobbing with the turns. Yeah. Yeah, I would say more unconscious, not so much sleeping.
Yeah, I mean, what does that tell you then if there's kind of like a half conscious, like, head bobbing that this person is either like, you know, drugs, or that they are dead or like severely wounded to the point where they're like, you know, not really able to keep their body up. Right. So maybe she has been attacked at this point. But it's still like hanging on.
Right. And she has no control of her. She has no control over her body. Yeah. And sadly, that is about all the leads that the investigators would get.
They did, however, find some suspects. And we will talk about those right after a quick ad break.
All right, it's time to talk about the suspects. And let me just first point out, I always think it's the boyfriend right away. And I know most people do. But with the limited reporting in this, there's not a whole lot of evidence that points to Doug Holmes, and he has since moved to Australia and has commented many times and said that he hopes that the killer of Lisa is found and I guess he has cooperated in the past. However, he's still on the list. But the big theory in this case, and it's been widely suggested that Lisa was murdered by a police officer.
Yeah, this one's interesting to me. And I know we all heard Yvette allude to this earlier when she was talking about remembering the case. And the main thing she remembered was that, you know, that there was kind of some fear about being pulled over by police officers. So that's where this comes from. Yes, yes. And that is because the main suspect was actually a veteran police officer guy named Thomas Byrne. So Byrne had been on the same highway as Lisa that night. And he reportedly pulled over a different woman for erratic driving. A Kailua supermarket checkout woman identified Byrne as the officer who had pulled her over. That's how we know that, right? Byrne admitted that he was there but denied stopping Lisa or of course killing her.
Of course. Yeah.
He's gonna deny.
Still, though, the investigation focused largely on burn, as you were saying Rasha, and his car and house were searched thoroughly. There were two police dogs who were trained to find drugs and bombs that were used to see if they could detect any of Lisa scents on his car or any of his belongings. The dogs did pick up something from Bryne’s car, they had some kind of reaction. But it was unclear what they were reacting to. And so they couldn't really connect Bryne that way. And so for all these reasons, Bryne was never charged in the case. So he's still considered a suspect, largely. And there's been a lot of debate about it over the years, but, you know, again, never charged convicted. And so therefore, we don't know who killed Lisa.
Yeah, and it, right, and it goes back and forth. Like was it the boyfriend?
Or was it a police officer or someone impersonating a police officer.
Someone impersonating a police officer. But it's interesting, because I spoke to one of my friends who lives in Hawai'i. And she said, She's about three years older than me. So she would have been, you know, 18 at the time, and she said years later in the salon where she worked. She had one of the detectives from the Lisa Au case in her chair. And they started chatting, you know, about the case. And she said that he felt that the boyfriend absolutely did it. That was his opinion. Yeah. So.
But you said one thing that's interesting. You said impersonating a police officer. Where does that theory come from?
Well, that comes from in Hawai'i at the time, there were police officers could put the blue light on top of their car. So it was like a grill that was there and they could just plop the blue light on there. So, you know, everybody was thinking that it was a police officer. Now all of a sudden, they're thinking that there are copycats out there that are going to start pulling over tourist or you know, luring women to the side and you know, doing something terrible to them…
Because we're afraid that anyone could get those lights, is what people think?
And they use their personal vehicles back then they're using their own cars.
So really anybody who like with their own car could just go by blue light and pretend to be an officer for pretend. Okay.
So actually, in 1982, the Honolulu Police Department actually banned officers from using the supplemental blue lights as a reaction to Lisa's unsolved murder because I think it created a lot of mass hysteria, especially in Honolulu.
Yeah, it created a frenzy. Right. People were afraid.
So afraid, like our mom. And so the other theory that I think is absolutely crazy is that they were trying to pin Lisa Au’s murder on the Golden State killer, who has now been identified as James D'Angelo, who is a former police officer. Or they actually thought that it possibly like Lisa could have been the first murder in the still unidentified serial killer known as the Honolulu Strangler. And I honestly, like I'd never heard about the Honolulu Strangler until doing research for this actual case. Do you know anything about it Yvettet?
No. And that's No, I did not. And I asked my friend again, the same question. And she remembers that case, those cases as well. And and I said, well, do you think, you know, one had to do with the other? And she said, she didn't feel that way at all. You know, so were you familiar with these at all, Trevor?
Our True Crime expert.
Yeah. I mean, obviously, I'm familiar with the Golden State Killer, and Joseph James D’Angelo. That was a huge thing back in, I guess, 2018 or so when he was found out, right. And it's a pretty common thing that anytime one of these serial killers from, you know, decades past is discovered that people will try and connect them with all these other unsolved cases where they don't know who the killer is. I remember people thought like, you know, he could have been also the Zodiac or that the Zodiac was the, the Unabomber, you know, so people are always like making these crazy connections between these famous serial killers. And I get it, I understand where the temptation comes from, but I was less familiar with the Honolulu Strangler. However, I had heard about it, in reference to some DNA technology announcements that have come out recently. It was one of those cases where they thought they could use new DNA technology to help solve the case, which has been a really big thing in recent years. So I kind of heard about it in passing, but happy to talk about it a little bit more here because it is an interesting case. And that one more so than the Golden State Killer, I think could have some legs as a theory.
So anyways, I'll just tell you about it, and then we can think about it a little bit, please. Okay, makes any sense if it's connected. But basically from May 1985 to April of 1986, five women were murdered in a similar fashion to one another. Their names were Vicki Gay Purdy, Regina Sakamoto, Denise Hughes, Louise Mederios, and Linda Pesce. Each woman was found nude with her hands bound behind her back, and three of them had been sexually assaulted or raped. So already the MO kind of sounds different from Lisa. Right, right. So because Lisa's cause of death, though, has still not really been determined, it's difficult to tell if she had been strangled if she had been bound, if she had been sexually assaulted. And since she was not found under any of those conditions, there's not really a lot of evidence to back up the theory that she was connected to the Honolulu Strangler. Still, though, it's possible. It's possible that Lisa, you know, having happened many years earlier, was like maybe the first victim of the Honolulu Strangler that maybe she was like a test,
A test case?
A test case for him, or I assume him, you know, and then he would go on to murder and kill five other women. You know, we've heard of that happening, you know, the Zodiac case, for example. There were a number of unconnected cases, unconfirmed cases that happen years, years before the official Zodiac killings, that looked really, really similar. So a lot of people kind of assume that those cases are connected, but that they were, as I was just mentioning, like, kind of test cases for the Zodiac. So it's not unheard of, could be connected. But, you know, at the end of the day, we don't have any way to confirm that.
It's funny that you mentioned the Zodiac because our Great Uncle Steve Hodel connected, you know, he believes that our great grandfather, George Hodel was also the Zodiac Killer.
Yep. It's like, what is that about that and I didn't read that always try to put them all together.
Like I, I attribute it to Occam's Razor, right, like the simplest answer to any sort of complex issue is, you know, the most easy one to digest and therefore people attract to it.
You always say these amazing nuggets, Trevor. Oh, my goodness.
As I wish I could just get in your brain sometimes, Trevor, Trevor? Oh my god. What do you guys? Okay, so but what do you think about Doug? Do you guys think that the boyfriend could have done it? I mean, what do you think?
I feel like Rasha kind of said it already. You know, I mean, again, I know people are quick to, you know, go for the partner as the person who likely did it. And for good reason. I mean, that is very often the case, right? I mean, I think the first people you should look at are the people who know the victim, right? People in close proximity, significant others, neighbors, etc, etc. But in this case, it just feels unlikely it feels unlikely, based off of his testimony, it feels unlikely, based on the fact that there's just nothing tying him to the case. You know, I don't know if anybody else had any thoughts. But I mean,
You know, I have to agree with you. I think originally, I thought, yeah, it was a boyfriend. Because, you know, again, I go back to like, how do you let your girlfriend you know, drive the Pali and it's pouring rain at night? And, you know, in there's an argument, I think, well, maybe something happened. And so he, he planned all this, you know, something bad happened? Accidentally, possibly. I don't know. But the more that I think about it, I don't think the boyfriend was the one who did it. I think that my gut is leaning more towards a police officer. Things, things are just not adding up, especially when we go back. And we're talking about like, her body, right, and how the coroner's the way that it was not cleaned and bagged. And, like, that's a, that's a procedure that is supposed to be done. So why wasn't that done?
Ooh, so there's a conspiracy theory at work here.
Yeah. So I'm just I'm just I'm being I don't know. But that's just my two cents. But, yeah.
See, and I always lean towards the boyfriend, but because I don't want to hurt anyone. You know, Doug has come out in you know, last few years, especially, you know, I think he was interviewed for Hawai'i News Now. And he said, you know, because he's moved on to Australia has a family has moved on in his life. But he definitely, you know, has said that he wants to find Lisa's killer and help in any way that he can, but I still can't get it out of my mind that he was the last person to be with her. So I don’t know. , Valid point though, Yvette and, and Trevor, I just, I want Lisa to find justice.
Right? We just We just hope that the truth one day comes out. What really happened to her right? That's the most important thing here.
Exactly. So now it's time for our last segment of the show, our Imua. This will be the final part of every single episode of Facing Evil, and imua in Hawaiian means to move onward and upward, and most importantly, to move forward. It's our final message of hope and healing that we want to give to each of you. Today, we dedicate our imua to Lisa Au and all the other people in Hawai'i who never had their cases resolved.
It's so important to us today to spread this message of hope that we will find the truth about Lisa and that the land, the aina of Hawai'i will provide that truth. Absolutely. And hopefully this will bring some peace to Lisa's Ohana.
Onward and upward imua.
Well, that's our show for today. Our very first one. Thank you so much for joining us. We'd love to hear what you thought about today's discussion. And if there's a case that you'd like us to cover, you can always find us on social media or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,
Facing Evil is a production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. The show is hosted by Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile. Matt Frederick and Alex Williams, are executive producers on behalf of iHeartRadio with producers Trevor Young and Jessie Funk. Donald Albright and Payne Lindsey are executive producers on behalf of TenderfootTV, alongside producer Tracy Kaplan. Our researcher is Claudia Dafrico. Original Music by Makeup and Vanity set.
Find us on social media or email us at email@example.com
For more podcasts from iHeart Radio or TenderfootTV, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
Survivors of Homicide