Man arrested for murder released, prosecutors say not enough evidence

Jhun Ley Irorita

UPDATE 3/17/17: Jhun Ley Irorita was indicted by a grand jury for second-degree murder after skeletal remains found in April 2016 were identified as Prestosa. View the full update here.

A man suspected of killing a Kalihi woman has been released from custody pending further investigation.

Jhun Ley Irorita was arrested just after 11 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, and booked on suspicion of second-degree murder.

But, according to the prosecutor’s office, there was not enough evidence to charge him at this time. Police released him 48 hours later.

Irorita was accused of murdering Helen Prestosa, 39. She was last seen on the night of Nov. 19, 2015.

In an exclusive interview, Prestosa’s parents previously told KHON2 her body was never found. Honolulu police confirmed that Thursday.

Prestosa’s sister called KHON2 to say the family doesn’t understand the prosecutor’s decision to release Irorita.

“We just want to find her, to do the proper thing for her. Is that too much to ask?” she said.

The department would not confirm if Irorita remains a suspect in the case, stating it was “still under investigation.”

Former city prosecutor Peter Carlisle says it’s the right thing to do.

“They’re supposed to be doing a thorough investigation as humanely possible, and they know that,” said Carlisle.

“So it’s like having a second go at this?” KHON2 asked.

“Absolutely. Unequivocally. You’d expect that, considering the circumstances,” said Carlisle.

Carlisle tried the case against Kirk Lankford, who in 2007 was found guilty of the murder of Japanese citizen Masumi Watanabe, even though her body was never found.

Carlisle says Lankford was initially released before he was tried for murder.

“There were other things they had to look into to figure out whether he was really the right person,” Carlisle explained. “Did he do the killing or not? And in Lankford’s case, it turned out absolutely, they did.”

Lankford was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Carlisle says Irorita could still be charged later if HPD gathers enough evidence.

But the family says it’s a setback in the search for Prestosa, who was reported missing two months ago.

“She was such a beautiful, loving person, so we are appealing to the public for any information,” Prestosa’s sister pleaded. “Please, please help us. We just want to say goodbye to her, and let her go in peace.”

HPD would not confirm if there were any other suspects in the case.

Helen Prestosa
Helen Prestosa

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