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Police await DNA results from human teeth found in Kalalau

LIHU‘E — More than 8 months after roughly a dozen partially decomposed teeth were discovered near the Kalalau trail, the Kaua‘i Police Department says the investigation is still ongoing — as DNA results have yet to be obtained.

“We consulted with a doctor and we found that the teeth appeared to be human. But he cannot determine if it was ancient or recent,” said Kaua‘i Police Department (KPD) Acting Captain Kennison Nagahisa in a Tuesday interview.

The statements from Nagahisa did not provide any new information, as the department previously announced the teeth had come from a human back in February.

The Garden Island first reported the discovery of the unidentified teeth near the Kalalau trail in January. Two individuals, who requested to remain anonymous, had shown the decayed teeth to The Garden Island.

Some of the teeth were fully intact, while others had decomposed into smaller pieces. They were mostly brown in color.

At that time, the KPD Investigative Services Bureau said it was working to determine whether the teeth had come from an animal or a human.

“We get a lot of sightings of bones and stuff that are actually animals. It’s rare that it is actually a human,” Patrol Services Bureau Assistant Chief Elliott “Kalani” Ke had told The Garden Island before the teeth were examined.

When the teeth were identified as human, the remains were sent to a lab in Honolulu for DNA collection in an attempt to identify the owner.

Nagahisa, who became acting captain in June and was not part of the initial investigation, was not sure why the testing lab had not yet obtained the DNA results.

“Sometimes it takes a long time. I mean half a year. It just depends on the protocols of the lab,” he said, adding that the lab may be prioritizing other samples.

Nagahisa declined to provide the names of the testing lab in Honolulu or the doctor who conducted the initial assessment of the teeth.

“Being that it’s an ongoing investigation, I cannot release that information,” he said.

If a DNA sample is obtained from the teeth, it will then be compared to open missing person cases on the island.

There have been close to 100 missing person cases on Kaua‘i over the last 45 years, and several of those cases are connected to the remote Kalalau Valley, near the teeth’s discovery site.

Those disappearances include Jesse Pinegar, a then 22-year-old man from Utah, who went missing in January 2008 after hiking into the Kalalau Valley. There’s also Daniel Marks, a then 24-year-old visiting hiker, who was last reported to have gone into the Kalalau Valley in 2005 before disappearing. Sean Rollnick, who was 43 at the time, was found dead in the Kalalau Valley in June 2016.

Nagahisa said he knew of no recent missing person cases and was unable to comment on cases from years ago. “I wasn’t even in the bureau back then,” he said.

Nagahisa noted he would check with other officials from his department about updates from the testing lab.

“Sometimes (DNA testing) takes a while. But I can go check with my lieutenant. And if there are any new developments, I’ll let you know,” he said.

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Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached at 808-652-0638 or egrunwald@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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