Prison officials: Waiawa escape may have been planned for weeks

Pagoda Hotel
Pagoda Hotel
Wilikina Drive in Wahiawa
Wilikina Drive in Wahiawa
Jada DeCosta
Jada DeCosta

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four escapees from the Waiawa Correctional Facility are back in custody after a two-day, island-wide manhunt. State public safety officials say they're still trying to figure out how the inmates got out, and what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again.

Hawaii's deputy director for corrections says his department may have to update its accountability process and have more supervision at the minimum-security institution. He says it appears the prisoners had been planning their escape for weeks.

The adult corrections officers who were on duty at the time of the escape reportedly are still working the same shifts pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

Authorities on Monday night nabbed Waiawa prison escapees David Carvalho, Jr., 40, and George Thomas, 24, in the parking lot of the Pagoda Hotel's restaurant in what was described as a low-key operation that was over in a matter of minutes.

"I hope it didn't happen here, but I'm so glad that, you know, this is over," Alberto Roque, Pagoda Hotel general manager, said. "Whatever part we played, thank God nobody got hurt."

The hotel says the men on the lam were not registered guests.

Less than three hours earlier, authorities -- acting on an anonymous tip to Crimestoppers -- converged on an apartment complex on Wilikina Drive in Wahiawa and arrested the other two escapees, Elijah Keakahumoku, 28, and Jordan White, 22.

Jada DeCosta, 41, is accused of harboring them and was booked on suspicion of first-degree hindering prosecution, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

"I am totally relieved and our children are safe," Marlene Cummings, Christian Academy Preschool, said.

Christian Academy Preschool is right next to the building where Keakahumoku and White were located.

"I have great concern when someone has escaped from the prison," Cummings said. "That raises up a red flag."

State public safety officials are still looking into how four inmates managed to walk away from the Waiawa Correctional Facility undetected. They say a preliminary investigation revealed the prisoners may have been plotting the escape for a couple of weeks.

"We can do maybe a better job with accountability," Joe Booker, state corrections deputy director, said. "But sometimes when inmates plan -- and in this case it appears that there was some planning involved -- so that's one of the ways they worked on escaping."

The island-wide manhunt involved Honolulu police and state sheriffs. There's no word yet on how much the two-day mission cost.

"Our job is to ensure inmates stay out of the public and that we protect the public," Booker said. "But in some cases, that's not all exclusive. We can't predict and can't expect when people escape."

The Department of Public Safety says in its view, the four convicted felons were appropriately classified for incarceration at the minimum-security facility. But they have now lost that privilege, and face additional time.

They remain at HPD's main cellblock at this writing, and will eventually be transferred to a higher-security setting, such as the Oahu Community Correctional Center or the Halawa Correctional Facility.

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