‘Something is off’: Good Samaritans rushed in to rescue kidnapped teen at Hilo cafe

Witnesses and family members said the suspect and kidnapped teen went to Cafe Pesto in Downtown Hilo.
Published: Sep. 17, 2022 at 10:30 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2022 at 1:15 PM EDT
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - After nearly 20 hours of searching by air and ground, police confirmed on Saturday afternoon that 15-year-old Mikella Debina was found in good health.

And it was all thanks to some quick thinking strangers who only knew her from an AMBER alert.

The alert was issued for Debina on Friday night after she was reported abducted about 1:30 p.m. in the area of Anaehoomalu Bay near Waikoloa Beach Drive.

Witnesses and family members said that on Saturday morning the suspect and kidnapped teen went to Cafe Pesto in Downtown Hilo — where restaurant Bridge Hartman host knew something was wrong.

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“Something is off. Even if it wasn’t her, my brain was like, ‘I need to get her,’” Hartman said.

Hartman said the teen and suspect Duncan Mahi walked up to the host stand twice for a table. When they walked away, Hartman noticed they began to argue.

”And I realize then they started tussling. I was like, ‘Wait, what’s happening?’ It just wasn’t connecting,” Hartman said. “Then, I realized it was her. And I yelled out, ‘That’s the girl. That’s the AMBER Alert girl.’”

Hartman said the suspect let go of the teen for a second. That’s when Hartman rushed in.

“She got away from him like just for like a brief moment,” Hartman said. “And I was able to grab her in time. And I rushed her into into our back of our restaurant.”

Hawaii Island kidnapped teen found safe

#BREAKING Hawaii Island police confirm that 15-year-old Mikella Debina has been found safe in Hilo. #HNN #HINews

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Saturday, September 17, 2022

Artist Dragonfly, who is well known in downtown Hilo, was out front at the time.

“All of a sudden I can hear a girl screaming, ‘Help, help, leave me alone,’” the artist said. “And then here comes this guy dragging her.”

Hartman said that suspect attempted to convince everyone that Debina was his daughter.

Kori Takaki and her mom were eating at Cafe Pesto when the incident happened.

“When I looked at her, it looked like a man and a woman fighting,” said Takaki. “But she was wearing men’s clothing and I thought, ‘That’s strange. She doesn’t look like she’s wearing her own clothes.’”

Witnesses said Debina was scared and shaken up, but not hurt.

”She was saying, ‘Hee kidnapped me, he kidnapped me. Thank you,’” Hartman recalled.

“And I just got into the office. Got her water.”

Takaki stayed with Debina until the police arrived and helped her get in contact with her mom. She said the real hero is the Cafe Pesto host.

“I just know this is a mother’s worst nightmare,” Takaki said.

Hartman is relieved to have acted on instincts.

“So if you do see something, just do something,” Hartman said.

“I think the most important thing we can do is just really prepare our kids to know that they need to be safe and aware of their surroundings at all times,” added Takaki.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 911. For those who want to remain anonymous can call Crimestoppers at (808) 961-8300.