Marines’ cold case murders revisited as authorities renew call for help


In 1980, two Marines murdered in an East Oahu parking lot.

Thirty-six years later, authorities are stepping up their efforts to find whoever was responsible.

Rodney Padilla, 21, and Lawrence Martens, 19, both lance corporals assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station were found dead at Maunalua Bay Beach Park.

Now the cold case is getting renewed attention thanks to new technology, a family member’s cry for help, and new information.

We spoke to the brother of one of the victims, who came to Hawaii for the first time to plead for information about the case.

Authorities are also boosting the reward to $16,000 in hopes of cracking the case.

“When I received the call that this case is being reopened, I was shocked and overjoyed. This was an answer to my prayers,” said Padilla’s older brother, Joe Padilla.

Joe Padilla describes his little brother, who he called Rocky, as a star athlete in high school, always laughing and joking.

Rocky’s life was cut short at 21 when he was shot and killed. Joe Padilla said Rocky wanted to follow in his footsteps when he got out of the Marines and become a police officer.

“He didn’t deserve it. Nobody had the right to take his life. That was 36 years ago, which is a lifetime,” said Joe Padilla.

Rocky was killed just a few weeks after he returned from his deployment in Afghanistan. Now, investigators are using fresh eyes.

“Time can work to your benefit in a case like this because as (a fellow investigator) indicated, you have changes in relationships and loyalties and things of that nature,” explained NCIS special agent in charge Tony Cox.

They are also using new technology to bring justice for the victims’ families.

“DNA has advanced since the early stages, GPS mapping, photographic technology where you can enhance photographs — there’s all kinds of advances since the 1980s,” said Maj. Larry Lawson of the Honolulu Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division.

Investigators are asking anyone for information because it was a tip that actually moved this case forward after 36 years.

We asked Lawson for more information about this tip they received about a year ago. We wanted to know if this was a catalyst to look at the case again.

“I can’t go into what the tip was, but it did point us in a direction and we will continue to go into that direction until something deters us or we can’t go any further into it,” he said.

“I’m hoping somebody calls,” said Joe Padilla, “even if it’s a little call where I think I heard this, and I hope they are able to indict somebody. That will help with the closure.”

As for the other victim, Lawrence Martens’ sister, Melissa Franken, lives in Wisconsin and could not travel to Hawaii, but she sent us this statement: “It has been really hard to find closure because we don’t know what actually happened and who did this. I hope that the case being reopened will help to find some answers.”

Again police are urging anyone with information about the case to call Honolulu CrimeStoppers at 955-8300.

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