Six Days Missing, Where Could Amanda Eller Be?
By Wendy Osher
The search for a missing Maui woman continues today with flyers being distributed island-wide and a ground search by volunteers underway at the Makawao Forest Reserve.
A Go Fund Me account has also been set up for Amanda Eller, who has been missing since Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Within the first six hours today, the account had already raised $12,307, surpassing an initial $10,000 goal.
The 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor was last seen by her boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, who said Eller was meditating when he left for work at around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
“I was the last person to see her and it was Wednesday morning before I went to work,” Konkol said at a press conference that was streamed live on the Findamanda Facebook page, which was set up in the wake of her disappearance.
“We live together,” said Konkol, “And so, we woke up and spent the morning together and she was meditating when I left for work at around–Jerry [spelling?] my buddy picked me up for work at 7:30 [a.m.] and she was still in the house then. Super excited to come home and have dinner together. And it was her day off. So I didn’t–she didn’t have any plans, she didn’t know what she was going to do. And so she didn’t reach out to tell me anything.”
During the press conference, when asked if Eller had indicated if she was going to go hiking, Konkol said ‘no.’ “She originally had plans to hang out with her friend, but that friend cancelled, I think the night before, and so she basically had a wide open day. And so none of it–we went through her phone. None of the texts, none of the calls signified her going on a hike, but it’s not unlike her. She likes to spend her days off in nature. And so when she didn’t come home I figured that she’s by a waterfall, she went to the beach, she went somewhere and that’s how the cops (inaudible) finding her because they asked me where does she frequent, and Makawao Forest was the one of the things that just happened to pop into my mind. And sure enough, they found her car.”
Konkol described his connection to Eller saying, “I have a very strong connection with Amanda and the evening that she did not come home–Wednesday evening–I immediately (inaudible) something was wrong. We spent every single night together. We’ve never taken a night off. We have very good communication. So the moment she did not arrive home at night, I knew something was wrong and did not feel good in my body.”
Konkol continued by describing his interaction with police and attempts to search the area. “The following morning is when I called the cops, having not seen her yet. And they interviewed me and we got cops leads out there and one of the detectives found her car in the Makawao Forest. Soon after that is when I drove up there and found her car and was immediately drawn into the forest through a feeling I have of her seeing as we are so very connected.”
Konkol said he felt “pulled” in a particular direction and noted that the area northeast of the parking area “keeps coming up.” He described Eller as his “soul partner” and said he felt like she was “very much alive.”
During the press conference, he said, “And I was continually pulled in a certain direction and I’ve spent every single day since that moment, in the forest looking for her, trying to just track her. I feel very called to continue searching. It’s very important that we do find her. I do feel that she is very much alive. My, my feeling is that she is alive. And I have other people confirming that.”
He continued saying, “And so the biggest thing we can do is hold hope and optimism and joy for her. And send her lots of love because we do know that she is alive. We’re going to continue to search to find her. We just have to focus on that. And if anyone is interested in helping, I have a very strong inner guidance to where she may be. We’ve GPS a lot, we’ve tracked a lot, and being that she’s my soul partner, I just feel very drawn to her. And so, the direction North East of the parking area keeps coming up.”
Konkol joined family in seeking the public’s help in continuing the search. “And so if anyone knows that area or wants to meet up at the parking area tomorrow or any day–the gates open at 7. We are creating search groups. We’re going to create a grid and search very, very delicately. She may be unconscious, she may be hidden, so we need to move slowly, we need to move efficiently and diligently in all of these areas,” said Konkol on Sunday night.
Konkol said that he would continue searching along with Eller’s family members. “I will be heading up teams. We have other friends, family that will be heading up teams. We have helicopter pilots that are volunteering to help fly people into remote areas. Like Sarah [Haynes] said, we don’t know if it’s just a hiking injury or if there’s foul play–either way she is in the forest and we’re going to find her. So please, if anyone has time, efforts, financial support–we need to rent more helicopters, get more search parties out here. We will be creating a GoFundMe account to take donations to continue to search as long as it takes,” said Konkol.
Sarah Haynes, who has been handling press inquiries, said volunteers are going on the assumption that Eller is out there and there is a limited amount of time to find her.
In a phone interview on Sunday, Sarah Haynes said, “We hope she’s out there. We have no reason to believe that she isn’t out there and we don’t know if she has fallen and has a concussion or if somebody has harmed her out there. We just know that she headed off down that trail and her car was left there.”
Haynes, who has been living on Maui for 10 months, said she had met and gone to dinner with Eller. She noted that Eller has a lot of clients and friends, and is part of a variety of yoga communities. “I’m quite close with her boyfriend, and he does not want to leave that forest, and he is searching every waking moment, so I’m handling this aspect for him,” she said.
During Sunday’s press conference, Haynes dismissed any thought that Konkol could be involved saying, “We are not even remotely concerned about Ben’s involvement in this situation.” She continued saying, “Number one, he is a kind, gentle soul who she adored. Number two, Ben could not possibly have logistically brought her car in during those hours. And we are very confident that that car could not get there before 7 a.m. because there is a steel gate, locked. Ben went to work at 7 a.m. There’s no way for him to get that car in there. So Ben is not on our radar at all.”
Maui Now reached out to Maui Police today to see if there were any suspects or significant leads. Lt. Gregg Okamoto, the Public Information Officer for the Maui Police Department said the MPD has not come to any conclusions yet, and was unable to comment further. He said that at this time, the incident is still classified as a missing person case unless there is any type of new information received.
Haynes said information gathered indicates that Eller was hiking in the forest between 9:30 and 10 a.m. on Wednesday, based on what she called witness accounts.
A Kahului resident was among those who posted information on Facebook saying she and her husband believe they saw Eller in the forest that morning and spoke to her “for a couple of seconds.” In a Facebook post, the woman said she was “90% certain” that it was Eller, and reported the sighting to police.
There were also comments left by an area resident who indicated that she had seen someone with the same length and color hair as Amanda walking between mile marker 3 and 4 on Piʻiholo Road on Wednesday afternoon. “I was driving down and she was walking down on the left side of the road,” the witness wrote in a Facebook post during the live press conference feed. The witness said the woman pedestrian was not one of the usual neighborhood walkers.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Amanda Eller is asked to immediately call the Maui Police Department at (808) 244-6400 or 9-1-1 in an emergency. Haynes reports that there is a $10,000 reward being offered for Eller’s safe return and encouraged those that have information to either call Maui police or CrimeStoppers at (808) 242-6966, if they want to remain anonymous.
Kimberlyn Scott, the mother of Carly “Charli” Scott is helping with the search and was among those at Sunday’s press conference. Her daughter, Charli Scott, was five months pregnant when she went missing in February of 2014. A piece of a jawbone, but no body was recovered in that case. Steven Capobianco, Charli’s ex-boyfriend was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in the death.
Kimberlyn Scott indicated that there would be a grid search conducted along the roadside today for Eller, which entails a distance of 10 feet between each person. In last night’s press conference, Scott said, “We’ll be out there at 7 a.m. tomorrow and every day thereafter until something changes.”
The Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety suspended its search at 11:40 a.m. on Sunday. Maui Fire Department Assistant Chief Val Martin said the department assists the Maui police for 72 hours for a missing person’s case and will continue to work with the MPD to assist with future searching if new information is discovered.
With that in mind, Scott said, “It falls on the shoulders of the community. And I know what you guys did for Charli and I’m asking you to step up and do it again. Please keep showing up,” she said.
John Eller, Amanda’s dad extended his thanks to those who have been out searching including the police and fire department personnel saying he is grateful for their work.
Julia Eller, Amanda’s mother said she was in the forest for about 45 minutes after arriving on Maui Sunday afternoon. “It was muddy. There are lots of huge trees down. The terrain is a bit rugged in places, and that was just to scratch the surface. I spent time calling her and looking where I could under any areas where I could get to that I thought might present a situation where she could’ve slipped off the ledge.”
Julia Eller has asked to be put on a grid search team for today. “I want to be part of the search to find her,” she said.