Kauai authorities take second look at cold case murder

Amber Jackson

Four years ago, a mysterious disappearance triggered a frantic search for a woman on Kauai.

When Amber Jackson failed to show up for a weekly dinner with friends, the search for her began, first at her home in Kapahi and then along a nearby stream. Friends took to the mountains, streams and hiking trails looking for Jackson, but could find no trace of her.

After 10 days, the search ended in tragedy when dogs belonging to a pig hunter finally came across Jackson’s body in a remote, rugged area of Anahola frequented by hunters and hikers, often referred to as Kealia Mauka.

Each year since then, her friends and family have put out the word to the public. They do not want people to forget, and they especially want justice.

Last month, KHON2 featured a story on the cold case unit on Kauai, the only such special unit designed to investigate cold case homicides in the state. That story prompted Jackson’s friends to contact authorities and convince them to give her death the same attention.

Now, the police and the prosecutor’s office are taking a fresh look at Jackson’s murder.

Ken Ceplo was posting flyers in the area near where Jackson’s body was discovered — flyers that offer a $20,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of a person or persons responsible for her murder. He considered Jackson a sister.

“It’s really like torture,” said Ceplo. “Four years later, the people who are left behind. It’s just hard to relate to.”

A website developed by the Kauai Prosecutor’s Office features cold cases on Kauai. With that kind of designation, authorities can call in more resources.

KHON2 asked Roy Asher, assistant chief of the Investigative Services Bureau with the Kauai Police Department, if he would take up the suggestion offered by Jackson’s friends to go outside the department and ask for assistance. “We have,” he replied. “In all our cases, when it is applicable and prudent, we do consult with other agencies to include county, state and federal.”

Tom Perry, the director on Kauai for the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association, was her boss.

“You just can’t imagine that someone would do something like that to a person like Amber,” he said. “It just doesn’t fit Kauai. It does not make any sense for Kauai.”

An autopsy found Jackson died of injuries from an assault. Authorities won’t say much more about how she died, or anything about their investigation, since it’s an open case.

“Thanks to the news story on KHON, we saw that this website was up,” said Ceplo’s wife, Teri. “Now I’m happy to say the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney has put her cold case on the website, so thank you very much for that.”

Now that Jackson’s murder is an official cold case, the authorities can resort to outside assistance, including having any evidence collected sent to a laboratory the Kauai cold case unit recently contracted with on the mainland to conduct DNA analysis.

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