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E-mail added witnesses in '75 murder case


July 21, 2001

Some of the former Marines who gave information within the past year that led to the arrest of an Indiana man in the slaying of a Kailua girl 26 years ago were interviewed by Honolulu Police detectives shortly after the killing and some were not, a police homicide investigation official said yesterday.

When police received an e-mail letter last year from a Las Vegas man who said he knew details of the killing, the letter contained the names of other former Kane'ohe Marines who were said to know something about the crime, but who had never come forward, Lt. Bill Kato said yesterday.

As it turns out, the e-mail author himself had been interviewed by police in the days following the shooting, Kato said. But because he said he feared retaliation by fellow Marines, e-mail author Michael Ryback waited 25 years to tell authorities all that he knew about the March 14, 1975, killing of Dawn "Dede" Bustamante.

On Tuesday morning, Delmar Edmonds, 46, who was attached to the same unit as Ryback at Kane'ohe Bay Marine Corps Base, was arrested at his home in Indianapolis and charged with murdering Bustamante.

Kato could not immediately say yesterday how much information Ryback and the other Marines provided to police when they were interviewed in 1975.

"I'm speculating because I wasn't part of the original investigation, but I think one reason it took so long (to charge someone in the Bustamante case) was that he (Edmonds) used two alibis," Kato said. "He said he was at a party and at the barracks after that."

Kato said he believes detectives working the case at the time talked to people who said they remembered seeing Edmonds at the party, but did not necessarily interview fellow Marines who Edmonds said would attest that he was at the barracks after the party the night Bustamante was killed.

According to original police accounts of the crime, Bustamante and another girl were ordered into a white Plymouth Valiant at gunpoint between 8 and 8:30 p.m. in Kailua, and were driven around for about an hour before being taken to a secluded area behind Pali Golf Course.

There, Dawn Bustamante was raped and shot, while the other girl was able to escape and call police.

During the past year, Ryback and others have told police investigators that Edmonds asked fellow Marines to vouch for his whereabouts the night Bustamante was killed and virtually admitted killing the girl to one or more of the Marines, according to a police affidavit filed in the case. As it turns out, Edmonds had become a key suspect within hours of the shooting 26 years ago, Kato said.

"Shortly after the murder, the Kane'ohe MPs were doing a high-security gate check and stopped Edmonds when his car came through and notified HPD that they had a car that was close to the description of the one that was being sought," Kato said.

The girl who survived the ordeal saw Edmonds in a lineup six days later, but told investigators she was only about "60 to 70 percent" sure that Edmonds was the one who abducted her and Bustamante.

Edmonds' attorney, Marcell Pratt, of Indianapolis, yesterday said Edmonds denies responsibility for the killing. "He denied it back then, and he denies it now," Pratt said.

He said he did not know whether Edmonds would fight extradition to Hawai'i. The extradition hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Marion County Criminal Court in Indianapolis. At the hearing, Edmonds could waive his rights to formal extradition proceedings and dramatically speed up the process.

"We really haven't decided yet," Pratt said. "But in this state it's really not a complicated process. All you need is the governor's signature and to prove identification (of the accused)."

If Edmonds fights extradition, the process could take 30 to 90 days, Indiana police said.

Advertiser staff writers Johnny Brannon and Mike Gordon contributed to this report.

By David Waite, Advertiser Staff Writer, COPYRIGHT © 2001 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


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