Family Keeping Search Alive for Missing Camper Laura Vogel
Divers Plan to Search Waters off Lighthouse Near Where her Van was Found
By EAMON McNIFF
March 12, 2010
A group of volunteer divers on the Hawaiian island of Maui are planning to search today for hiker Laura Vogel, who has been missing for nearly three weeks after telling friends she was going to camp out near a picturesque spot on the islands' north shore.
By all accounts Vogel was an experienced outdoor enthusiast. She was last heard from Feb. 21, while exploring the Maui coast near the Pauwela Lighthouse and what are called the birthing pools. Vogel sent a text message that night to a friend that read "I'm camped down the way from birthing pools and meeting all the locals."
According to Police they are still investigating, but have reportedly suspended actively searching for Vogel until more leads turn up.
"We know that Laura was with people the night she disappeared and we have yet to talk to those people. Biggest thing is to get information about her disappearance, we know people know what happened or at least who she was with and what she was doing," her sister-in–law Jessica Vogel said in an interview with ABC News.
Vogel had been in Maui for six months, working as a tutor and enjoying the outdoors, she told friends. Prior to moving to Hawaii she was a science teacher in her home state of New Mexico.
She "went out to Hawaii to spend time out there, she just loved it out there," Jessica said.
With a master's degree in wildlife biology, Vogel was known as an avid and experienced hiker and camper.
"She was just this very fun, loving person. She was a nature lover and all about good things," Jessica said.
The area where she disappeared from is a place she had visited many times before, but friends believe she had never camped overnight there.
According to investigators, near the area where Vogel had parked her car was a transient camp leading those searching for her to wonder if people in the camp were the "locals" she was referring to.
"The big problem here, this place is a spectacular, picturesque place during the day," Jessica said about the birthing pools location. "But apparently it turns into a not good place at night," she said.
The location Vogel went missing has her family fearing for the worse.
"We're very certain it was foul play. The fact alone she disappeared and her van was found in a dangerous place at night," Jessica said.
According to Jessica, after Vogel's last text, her friend, who has not been identified, replied but never heard back from Vogel.
Laura had a tutoring job the next day and when she didn't show up, it immediately set off alarms for those who knew her.
"She is super responsible, she didn't show up at 9 a.m. for a tutoring job and right away people started panicking because she is that reliable," Jessica said.
According to Jessica and the Maui police, her friends went looking for her that next morning and found her van near the birthing pool and camp. The passenger door was open, the keys in the ignition, but her phone and wallet were missing.
Police say the fire department found the back of a cell phone, suspected to be Vogel's, on the ground near the transient camp, yet nobody came forward claiming to have seen her. Police have ruled it a "suspicious" case.
A check of Vogel's cell phone records show later the night after her last text, two phone calls were made to a number not in her contacts list.
However according to police the person the number was traced back to, claimed to no longer use that number.
"Supposedly the phone was a prepaid cell phone and the person who purchased the phone initially claimed to not have it, police believe someone else now has that phone [number] now," Jessica said.
Vogel has been missing for three weeks now, and although the Maui police are involved and helping the family, they have suspended much of their search until more leads develop.
"For the most part, the family is out there searching. We have nine divers lined up just waiting for the seas to mellow out enough to go looking, and we're trying to cover ground not yet searched," Jessica Vogel said.
"The police are still investigating, if they find something that leads them to do more searching they will but at this point it is family and friends on ground," she said.
Jessica said her husband has been taking shifts with Laura's other siblings traveling to the island to head up the search teams.
"They haven't stopped for weeks," Jessica said.
According to Jessica, right now Laura's friends and family desperately hope someone will come forward with information.
"It's a small, tight-knit community on Maui and the information is there," she said.
Jessica just hopes whoever does know something will bring it to them before it is too late.
"The family just wants to get information on Laura that night, whoever was with her. We've put together a reward of $10,000 through fundraising and there is absolutely reward money for any information leading police to Laura," she said.
For more information on the case, or how to support the effort visit their Website.
People can also contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 808-242-6966, or the Private Tip Line at 888-524-0218.