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Hilo Information Update for December 25th, 2019

The Hawaii Police Department (HPD) along with the Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) have suspended their search for Benjamin "Benny" Rapoza.


However, numerous community members including family members will continue with their search for the 6-year-old into the Christmas Day holiday.

The Hawaii Police Department (HPD) and the Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) have suspended their search for a missing toddler Benjamin (Benny) Rapoza after a fourth full day of searching in the Keaukaha area Tuesday (December 24th).


The initial call came at 5:34 pm Friday evening and HPD officers from South Hilo Patrol, Criminal Investigative Division (CID) Area I and II, HFD crews from the Waiakea and Central Fire Stations along with Battalion 1, United States Coast Guard (USCG), Rangers from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, K-9 Search Dog, and Team Adam from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children responded to Keaukaha, where they're currently conducting an ocean, land, and air search as of Monday (December 23rd).


Rapoza was the subject of an extensive search by air, water, and land search that was conducted over the last few days, as he been diagnosed with Nonverbal Autism and was last seen only wearing a diaper. Rapoza is being described as local, standing about 3-feet tall, weighing about 50 pounds, slim build, with short brown hair, brown eyes, and a fair complexion.


HPD has notified the family of suspension of ground search by the HPD and HFD had also announced no further plans to continue their search after no new clues or signs were found as of Tuesday evening. However, the CID Juvenile Aid Section Area I investigation into Rapoza's disappearance is still being conducted and will respond to any new information and tips.


HPD Captain Greg Esteban said in an interview with the media on Monday, Rapoza went missing after his family visited a home in Keaukaha. Esteban added that there were indications that Rapoza was in the back of the property, near the water. Family members added that Benny is unfamiliar with the area, as their home is in Ainaloa, Puna. They also added that he is able to respond to his name and to flashing lights.


An all-out search, involving multiple agencies, including family members, volunteers from the community and few members of the HIRSC team, was conducted on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all throughout the Keaukaha area with minimal results. However, everyone involved was not giving up hope and continuing with their search on Tuesday. Volunteers had broadened their search and continued searching through the dense forest in the Keaukaha area. During their search, volunteers and family members were playing one of Benny's favorite tunes, the theme song from the popular Nickelodeon show 'Spongebob Squarepants'. Although conditions were not favorable last weekend, that did not dampen the search efforts being conducted by volunteers.


Volunteers and family members say maybe sad and unfortunate, however, they will be continuing with their search efforts for Benny into the Christmas Day holiday. They ask everyone in the Keaukaha community and in Hilo to be vigilant for Benny. Also, flyers are posted all throughout the Hilo town area.


Volunteers have set up a Facebook page and will provide updates on the search progress, please click here to view the Facebook page. Those who are planning on volunteering in the search are asked to check-in at 'The Hub' located 2135 Kalanianaole Avenue and to pack and dress appropriately for the various weather conditions and locations that will be searching in. Also, be advised that it's at your own risk and know your own limits when searching.


Rough ocean conditions last weekend had hampered HFD Rescue personnel efforts to send to divers into the water and had focused their search primarily on land and by air. HFD's Ocean Safety Jet Ski team had conducted water patrols of the Keaukaha coastline daily since Saturday morning and again continued earlier today. On Monday and Tuesday, with ocean conditions favorable, HFD Rescue Divers commenced with a search of surrounding waters near the residence where Rapoza was last seen. However, as of 5:00 pm Tuesday evening, HFD crews had found no signs of Rapoza and since suspended their search.


Volunteer coordinators are truly grateful for the response from the community and outpouring support from the many volunteers who helped in the search. Coordinators added that if you spot any sign of Benny including the diaper he was last seen wearing, you are asked to call the police immediately or contact one of the coordinators at the 'The Hub'.


If anyone has information on the whereabouts or may have seen Rapoza, you are asked to call HPD's Non-Emergency Line at 808-935-3311 or Detective BJ Sagon at (808) 961-8883 or email bobbie-jo.sagon@hawaiicounty.gov.

Update from HPD (as of 5:00 pm Tuesday evening):



Hawaiʻi Police Department Area I Juvenile Aid Section Lieutenant Sandor Finkey Phone: (808) 961-2254 Report No.  19-100172


The active ground search for missing child Benjamin “Benny” Rapoza has been suspended following notification to the family.


Benjamin “Benny” Rapoza was last seen at a residence in the 2100 block of Kalanianaole Street at around 3:00 pm on December 20th. Benjamin is described as local, standing about 3-feet- tall, weighing about 50 pounds, slim build, with short brown hair, brown eyes, and a fair complexion.  He was last seen wearing a diaper.


The extensive search which was a multi-agency air, land and sea effort has yielded no results for Benjamin.  Community and family members island-wide have assisted in the search.  The investigation continues on with detectives from the Area I Juvenile Aid Section who are actively responding to any new information and tips.


Police continue to ask anyone with information on Benjamin’s whereabouts or may have seen him to call Detective BJ Sagon at (808)961-8883, (808)935-3311 or email bobbie-jo.sagon@hawaiicounty.gov. 


Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward up to $1,000.  Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe.  Crime Stoppers does not record calls or subscribe to any Caller ID service.  All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

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