I just visited my friend Sarah Haynes in Maui last month for the first time since she recently moved there from Mill Valley, CA. She moved there to rescue animals and that is what she does all day every day until last Wednesday when her friend 35-year-old Amanda Eller went missing. I have known Sarah for 14 years and have always been impressed with her strength and ability to handle and navigate really difficult situations.
I don’t have the time to go in to her life story, but suffice it to say the girl has endured and managed some of the most difficult situations one can imagine including a brother who went missing when she was just 16 and was never found.
So I was not surprised to learn that she jumped into action when she learned that Amanda had gone missing Wednesday morning. She is being flooded with calls day and night since then so I cobbled together the details of the story by following her Facebook page and watching the informal press conference she held today on the “Findamanda” Facebook page to help get the word out.
Im sure people will be asking…isn’t this the job of detectives and the police? And I’m sure it is, but I’m also sure the sense of urgency trumps any standard operating procedure in the minds of Sarah and Amanda’s family.
I assume the names of the family members and boyfriend will be out in the press tonight or tomorrow since they were introduced at the press conference.
So I’m going to summarize the info from the unofficial press conference. The audio was pretty tough to hear so there may be things that I’ve missed because I could not hear them.
Sarah introduced the family. She had to reach out to Amanda’s father John Eller of Southport, North Carolina via Facebook to tell him his daughter was missing. Naturally he called and was on the first plane to Maui along with the sister (didn’t hear her name) and mom Julia Eller.
First question from a reporter was about who was the last person to see or speak with her.
At that point, boyfriend Ben Konkol jumped in and said that he was the last person to see or speak with her on Wednesday morning at 7:30AM when his friend picked him up for work since he and Amanda lived together.
(Sarah emphasized that they did not suspect Ben for a number of reasons and one was that the gates of the park where her car was found don’t open until 7:00am)
At that point Ben said Amanda was at home and trying to figure out what she was going to do that day since a friend had canceled plans with her the night before to hang out.
“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.”
He contacted Police Thursday morning.
Konkol said, “I have a very strong connection with Amanda and the evening that she did not come home–Wednesday evening–I immediately knew 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.”
Around noon on Thursday, Amanda’s Toyota RAV4 was found in a parking lot of the Makawao Forest Reserve in Maui County, however authorities who found the car did not yet know that Eller was missing.
They also discovered that her teal sneakers were missing, and her wallet and cellphone remained inside the car. The keys to the car were hidden under the driver’s side front tire.
Sarah reached out to the father on Friday. The family flew in Saturday/Sunday.
Firefighters did deploy a search effort beginning on Firday the 10th for 72 hours. Interestingly, the search dogs did not pick up on her scent…although Sarah said they very briefly appeared to pick up the scent but then it stopped.
Authorities called off the search on Sunday night. They have not revealed what other leads they may be following at this time. Obviously this is an active investigation and they usually don’t fill the public in on what is going on which must be really frustrating for the family and close friends involved in the search.
But despite this, the family and the search and rescue volunteers are continuing to search the area where her car was found. Ben says he feels strongly that Amanda is there and is still alive.
Additionally hikers in Makawao believe they saw Eller around 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m on Wednesday, and one couple thinks they spoke to her, according to the Facebook page.
NOTE: This tip was the wrong woman.
“They had a puppy with them and she talked to them and pet the puppy, and was her happy normal self,” the post stated. “They are not 100 percent sure it is her, but they have since watched videos of her and are pretty confident.”
But there was another tip that I spotted on the FB page that has yet to be investigated.
There is a $10,000 reward for information that would lead to Eller’s safe return. Eller is 5-foot-9-inches, 145 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
Pease contact the Maui Police Department at 808-244-6400 if you have any tips.