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Hawaii's First Serial Killer: The Honolulu Strangler

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1

The Unsolved Mystery

Hawaii’s first ever serial killer was responsible for the deaths of five women between 1985 and 1986. Known as ‘The Honolulu Strangler’, the killer bound his female victim’s hands behind their backs, and would then rape and assault them, before killing them by strangulation and dumping their bodies.


Victim One: Vicky Gail Purdy, aged 25, worked at a pornographic film rental shop, and was married to Army Helicopter Pilot Gary Purdy.

On May 29th, 1985, Vicky had left to go clubbing in Waikiki, but had failed to meet up with her friends. Her last known whereabouts was the Shorebird Hotel around midnight, were a taxi driver had driven her to, apparently because she needed to pick up her car, which was still in the car park at the hotel. Alarms were raised when she failed to return home. Her body was found the next day on an embankment at Keehi Lagoon still dressed in her yellow jumpsuit from the previous night. Her hands had been bound behind her back, and she had been raped and strangled. When interviewed by police, her husband said that he suspected her death might be connected to her job, where two women had been killed a year earlier.


Victim Two: Regina Sakamoto, aged 17, student at Leilehua High School.

On January 14th, 1986, at 7.15am, Regina rang her boyfriend to tell him that she would be late to school because she had missed her bus from Waipahu. That was the last time anyone heard from her. The next day, her body was found at Keehi Lagoon. She was still wearing her blue tank top and white shirt, but her lower half was naked. Like Vicky, her hands were bound behind her back and she had been raped and strangled. This link, along with the connection to Keehi Lagoon, led police to suspect that they were looking for the same killer.


Victim Three: Denise Huges, aged 21, was a secretary for a telephone company and was an active member at her Christian Church.

On January 30th, Denise, who always took the bus for transportation, failed to show up at work. On February 1st her body was found in Moanalua Stream by three young fishermen. Her body was decomposing, and she was dressed in a blue dress, then wrapped in a blue tarp. Like the other victims, Denise had her hands bound behind her back, and had been sexually assaulted and strangled. The finding of this third victim prompted a serial killer task force to investigate, which was established on February 5th.


Victim Four: Louise Medeiros, aged 25, she lived in Waipahu, but was in Kauai to be with family after the death of her mother.

On March 26th , Louise took a red-eye flight back to Oahu, telling her family that she would get home from the airport via the bus. She landed at Oahu, got off the plane, and wasn’t seen again until her body was found near Waikele Stream by road workers on April 2nd. Her body was decomposing, and she was wearing a shirt, which her lower body naked and her hands bound behind her back. Police and investigators set up sting operations using police women around Keehi Lagoon and the Honolulu International Airport.


Victim Five: Linda Pesce, aged 36.

Linda is the fifth and last known victim of the Honolulu Strangler. On April 29th she left home to go to work, and at 7pm, 30 minutes later her car was parked on the side of the Nimitz-H1 viaduct. Her roommate reported her missing the next day. A 43 year old Caucasian man went to police, claiming that a psychic told him there was a body on Sand Island. On May 3, the informant took police to an exact location on Sand Island, but there was body discovered. However, police searched the island and found Linda’s naked body, with her hands bound behind her back, just like all the other victims. 

The Investigation

The Honolulu Police Department had twenty seven people working on the serial killer task force, who were working in conjunction with the FBI and Green River task force. They managed to profile the serial killer as an opportunist, attacking women in vulnerable situations and places, like at bus stops, rather than stalking his victims. The profile suggested that the serial killer most likely worked or lived in the area of the attacks, Waipahu or Sand Island. When Linda’s body was missing,

Honolulu in Hawaii
police set up roadblocks to question commuters. Witnesses came forward who claimed to have seen a light coloured van and a Caucasian man with Linda’s car.

When Linda’s body was discovered, police arrested the informant as their primary suspect. Interviews with the suspects ex-wife and girlfriend provided potentially incriminating evidence, with both describing him as a smooth talker, and both saying that they had engaged in sexual activities, where he had tied their hands behind their backs and then had sex with him. His girlfriend also told police that on the nights of the murders they had fought, and the suspect had left the house.

The suspect was a mechanic on Lagoon Drive on Ewa Beach, and on May 9th, after being arrested, the suspect was interrogated between 8pm and 3am, failed a polygraph test and was eventually released due to a lack of evidence.

Police issued a $25,000 reward for information regarding the case, and had the suspect followed. Two months later, a woman came forward, claiming that she had seen a man with Linda on the night she was murdered. The witness successfully picked the suspect out of a photo line-up as the man, However she didn’t want to be a witness because she believed he saw her as well and was frightened for her safety.

 After that, no similarly styled murders were committed and the reward was never claimed. The main suspect moved to the mainland, where he died in 2005, and the case went cold.



Jan 8, 2015 5:33pm
A pretty intense unsolved mystery. I've never heard of actually an serial killers in Hawaii, just goes to show every paradise has a serpent. I've always been curious about how man times the law had a killer in their hands but were powerless to stop them. All in all a good read.
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