Day 15: MPD Discloses Forensics Report on Amanda Eller’s Phone

May 23, 2019, 10:50 AM HST · Updated May 23, 10:52 AM
Debra Lordan · 33 Comments
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MAKAWAO, Maui–Dr. Amanda Eller, a Maui physical therapist and yoga instructor, has been missing for 15 days as of today, Thursday, May 23, 2019.

John Eller. PC: Debra Lordan

As the search proceeds onward and outward, using volunteer searchers, divers, rappellers, drone operators, canine teams, local search-and-rescue resources, multiple agencies and organizations, and a West Coast SAR consultant, the Maui Police Department continues its investigation.

John Eller, Amanda’s father, told Maui Now yesterday evening that the MPD got the forensics report back on Amanda’s phone.

“There was no GPS track,” he said. “She wasn’t running any apps or GPS. All of her privacy settings had been turned off, so there was nothing on the phone.”

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He added that the MPD has gone to Honolulu to pick up a piece of equipment that can pull data from the infotainment unit in her car in order to extract its GPS track data.

An infotainment unit is an optional add-on collection of hardware and software installed in a vehicle that can include a navigation system (GPS), music and video players, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and other capabilities.

The results are not in yet, as the MPD just went to O‘ahu yesterday to pick up the equipment according to Amanda’s father.

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Initially, it was believed that the FBI was going to support police in getting the data from Amanda’s car. Family members say that when it turned out the agency was not able to do that, the MPD, on their own initiative, found the equipment and are in the process of extracting the information. Results are expected at any time.

John said the MPD and volunteers alike are faced with organizing and analyzing huge amounts of information from which they need to glean intelligence. So in a joint effort, a virtual data room has been set up in conjunction with the MPD, where all information and data relating to the search for Amanda—leads, tips, video, Facebook pages—will be cataloged, segmented, analyzed and correlated.

Ben Konkol, Amanda Eller’s boyfriend, and team leader Chris Berquist discuss the day’s search. PC: Debra Lordan

“We’re working together… everyone wants to help, and that’s good progress,” said John. “The strength of the community effort here—beside the boots on the ground—we’ve got a lot of smart people who know technology on our volunteer team.”

John sees his role in the search as facilitation, coordinating and being a liaison. But he actually has built his own GPS technology tracking company, where his son, Chris, is in charge of product development for the company.

“So we have a lot of skills in this area, and we are trying to bring that to bear in the search,” said John.

Chris Eller and Chris Berquist, the search team leader, were instrumental in setting up the GPS and mapping systems used by the volunteers. Berquist found the apps they now use and was instrumental in initiating the setup. When Chris Eller arrived, he helped evolve the system into an even more usable search tool.

“It was really the two Chrises who put that all together,” said John.

Sarah Hayes and Kim Scott (Carly “Charli” Scott’s mother) have distributed fliers, and knocked on hundreds of doors, collecting leads on additional videos to download and share with the MPD.

Posted today on the findamanda facebook page: WE ARE STILL LOOKING FOR SURVEIlLANCE FOOTAGE THROUGHOUT MAKAWAO, HA‘IKŪ AND THE ACCESS ROADS LEADING BOTH IN AND OUT. If you have a system, please quickly save ALL DAY Wednesday, May 8. After you’ve saved it, let the police and our family know. Our goal in knocking on doors and gathering/watching footage is to free up the detectives, so they may run the urgent investigation of Amanda’s disappearance. (Update: The police appear and download the footage directly themselves… )

All the videos are being analyzed to identify time slices that include “people and vehicles of interest” in order to stitch together the story.

Who else was at Makawao Forest Reserve around the time Amanda arrived? When did Amanda really get to the parking lot? Who else was there? Who left after? These are all questions that officials hope to answer by analyzing the video data. It’s a complex story to assemble from video footage.

Wednesday’s search saw over 50 volunteers check in; the helicopter is still utilizing the infrared FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) and line-of-sight methodology. Thus far, the search has utilized hundreds of hikers, about 10 drones, 25 rappellers, a dozen divers and 20 drivers.

Chris Berquist. PC: Debra Lordan

“We are only getting stronger in our ability to search for Amanda every day,” said team leader Berquist.

“As we begin to advance our search efforts outwards, the need for strong hikers only grows,” said Berquist. “We are reaching a point where hikers who are comfortable in steep terrain are needed to be on foot for four to eight hours.

“We are going to start to put together bigger rappelling teams to push to some gulches that are further out,” said Berquist. “As we can get access, we are going to be checking service roads and trails that are further out and we are going to start flying the drones to pre-run the gulches that may leave our people—or more importantly, Amanda—stuck on a cliff. So if you are an FAA-certified drone pilot, I have more for you to do!”

Berquist is expecting a big turnout of volunteers over the weekend. After that, he said, he may set up a remote satellite camp or camps closer to new areas into which they plan to expand the search.

“It truly is amazing and comforting to all of us here and the those out in the world to see how much a community can come together again and again to search the forest, leaving no rock unturned, no ginger patch unchecked, no cliff drop un-rappelled and no pool overlooked,” said Berquist.

Ben Konkol. PC: Debra Lordan

Ben Konkol, Amanda’ boyfriend, told Maui Now last night that he is “blown away by the organization of the search efforts.”

He is impressed how everyone has come together in such an “organized, determined and loving way.”

It helps so much with the hope, he said. “This is a story of hope, survival and love triumphing over the scariness of it all.”

“This is probably the best team we could ever ask for,” he said, “It feels like family now… but of course we always need more volunteers.”

John said his wife, Julie, has her “head down and focused” on the search.

“You have to keep busy,” said John. “You can’t watch the news. It’s just too emotional and painful. You can’t look through the lens of your ‘normal life.’ So we just look at the problem at hand here and stay focused on it. That’s how you do it… ”

NEEDED

Video footage of the immediate area is needed for data mining by volunteers and the Maui Police Department. (See contact information below.)

Volunteer searchers of all levels, especially strong hikers who know the area and who have good endurance to go “longer and stronger” for a six to eight-hour trek. Hikers who are comfortable in steep terrain and able to be on foot for four to eight hours are most needed.

Drivers: Drivers are needed to stand by to pick up tired hikers throughout the day and at the end of the day.

Volunteer administrators to help with registration, logistics and computer work

Volunteers flier distributors for other areas of Maui.

Food, water, ice: Donations are still needed to sustain search volunteers.

History/Background

During a press conference, organized by volunteers on Sunday, May 12, 2019, Eller’s boyfriend said he was the last person to see Eller, and that she was meditating when he left for work at around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

Maui police say surveillance shows the 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor mailing a package at the Haʻikū Post Office on the day she went missing at approximately 10:19 a.m.

At approximately 12:12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, police say Amanda’s Toyota Rav4, license plate number LEZ110 was observed within the gravel parking lot near the “Hunter’s Trail” at the Makawao Forest Reserve by off duty Maui Fire

Amanda Eller. PC: Sarah Haynes / Findamanda Facebook page.

Department personnel, who had gone for a hike.

On Thursday, May 9, 2019, at about 7:21 a.m., the Maui Police Department was contacted by Eller’s live-in boyfriend who reported Eller missing and described several possible locations that Amanda liked to frequent, including the Makawao Forest Reserve, according to police.

The Maui Police Department is asking ANYONE who was at the Makawao Forest Reserve on Wednesday, May 8, to contact police.

The Maui Police Department has set up a direct number to police for the public to call with any and all tips and information about this investigation. The telephone hotline is (808) 244-6421, or tips may also be emailed to police at [email protected].

*Story by Debra Lordan. Maui Now’s Wendy Osher contributed to this report.

Debra Lordan
Debra Lordan has been a writer and website editor for Maui Now since December 2014.

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