It’s been more than a year-long process so far, but Luis Soltren, friend of slain former Kaua‘i resident John Elwin, is still garnering support for his pursuit of justice.
And he’s hoping those who knew Elwin will step forward to help one last time.
For Soltren, taking action in response to what happened has been a longtime coming.
Elwin was found murdered in the Philippines in May 2006 from a gunshot wound to the back of the head. He was last reported to have been traveling with Hank Jacinto, also known as Henry Calucag, when Kirs-ten Flood, Elwin’s girlfriend, reported him missing that same month.
Elwin had been missing for nearly half a year when he was finally exhumed and positively identified in October in the Philippines after Louis Beader, of the Canadian Embassy in Manila, provided his dental records, according to court documents.
Elwin’s story has gained national media attention, as John Walsh from “America’s Most Wanted” featured the circumstances surrounding Elwin’s death in November. “Dateline NBC” has also followed the case, with a report scheduled to air June 27.
Though no murder charges have been brought against him, Jacinto was found guilty on June 8 of eight of nine criminal charges in relation to Elwin’s disappearance, including fraud, forgery and theft — charges that could land him as many as 70 years in prison.
In order to ensure he gets a tough sentence, Soltren is asking those who were friends of Elwin’s to step forward in a letter-writing campaign for consideration by the judge on Aug. 29.
Letters are due Monday.
“It’s really important that those who knew him contact me,” Soltren said. “This is the chance to express yourself and let this judge know how this crime has affected you in the community.”
State Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, D-Kaua‘i, said in the wake of this and other identity theft crimes, county residents need to err on the side of safety when it comes to trusting others with information regarding money and identity.
“It’s sad,” he said, calling identity theft a consequence of the times.
With that in mind, legislators drafted a resolution that closes a loophole on identity theft, Tokioka said.
Had such legislation been in place when Jacinto forged Elwin’s notarized car title into a fraudulent deed for Elwin’s property, perhaps Jacinto wouldn’t have gotten as far as he did, Soltren said.
Though the legislation is just in its resolution stage — it passed the House in April unanimously but is slated to be heard by the Senate during the next legislative session — Tokioka said all stand to benefit when residents such as Soltren take action from personal experience.
Crediting the resolution largely to Soltren’s research, which included Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter, Tokioka said the idea was effective and easy to implement.
If passed in the Senate in January, the new legislation would mean certain transactions involving a notary would require an added line detailing the property tied to the deed.
Noting it’s important to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to identity theft, Tokioka said the crime that, nationally, is sixth-most prevalent in Hawai‘i means residents might need to rethink old traditions.
Though a task force is in place to address the problem, Tokioka said residents of Kaua‘i — especially those of the old-school ideology of blanket trust — need to be more skeptical.
“In this day and age, there are a lot of people who become victims because of trusting others, even friends,” he said.
It was with the intent to honor the trust they had between them — Elwin had left Soltren in charge of his estate — that fueled Soltren to do more than just wait for answers to fall in his lap or for lawmakers to figure out how to protect others from falling victim to similar circumstances on their own.
But Soltren merely made suggestions, he said, noting, “It might have been my idea but (Tokioka’s) been the driving force.”
• Amanda C. Gregg, assistant editor/staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or firstname.lastname@example.org.