“All human life has its seasons, and no one’s personal chaos can be permanent: winter, after all does not last forever does it? There is summer, too, and spring, and though sometimes when branches stay dark and the earth cracks with ice, one thinks they will never come, that spring, that summer, but they do, and always." T.Capote
Interested in training and consultation services? If so, please contact us.
Nightmare still fresh, 31 years later
By David Waite
Honolulu Advertiser Staff Writer, with permission
Cherry McCoy yesterday told the story of how she and a friend, Dawn "Dede" Bustamante, were kidnapped at gunpoint in 1975.
For 31 years Cherry Verdugo McCoy has battled nightmares, emotional pain and depression in anonymity - realizing all along that she could have been killed the night her best friend was murdered.
Yesterday, McCoy spoke publicly for the first time about the 1975 murder of Dawn "Dede" Bustamante, a case that rocked the Lanikai community some three decades ago and remains unsolved today.
Bustamante was killed on a deserted road behind the Pali Golf Course in 1975.
McCoy remembers the night vividly. She and Bustamante had been kidnapped, at gunpoint in Lanikai, and taken to a remote area behind the golf course. First, the attacker raped Bustamante before later knocking her out with the butt of his gun.
He then hit McCoy and started to attack her.
"He had knelt down next to me and had his hands around my neck choking me," McCoy said. "I think I was maybe two or three seconds away from passing out, from dying. I was praying and squeezing my thighs so hard I couldn't feel them anymore."
At that precise moment, however, Bustamante regained consciousness and tried to run to safety in the bushes.
"He let go of my neck and ran after her," McCoy said. "I got up and ran the other way as fast as I could."
McCoy estimates she ran about a third of a mile when she heard an unmistakable sound.
"I heard a gunshot, a single gunshot and I thought to myself, 'Oh my God, he's killed her or wounded her.' "
Her worst fears would be confirmed within the hour.
AN 'EERIE' SITUATION
It was Friday, March 14, 1975, and McCoy was staying overnight at Bustamante's house in Lanikai. It was about 8 p.m., "a beautiful tropical night" and the two girls were walking to the Kalapawai Market. They were hoping to meet up with friends when a late 1960s Plymouth Valiant headed in the other direction slowed as it passed the girls.
"Dede said she thought the guy driving the car was a friend of her mother's and went across the street to talk to him," McCoy said. "When she realized it wasn't her mother's friend, she came back to the side of the street where I was waiting."
The two girls resumed walking toward the market and the car continued toward Lanikai. A few moments later, the driver turned around and pulled onto the shoulder to talk to the girls.
"We were between the Lanikai boat ramp and what used to be Camp Kailani," McCoy said. "Dede walked up to the car and looked in and the driver asked us where we were going. The way he was looking at us made my intuition kick in and I thought to myself, 'This is eerie.' "
The man tried to strike up a conversation, she said. He asked if the girls needed a ride. They said no.
"The next thing I know he's pointing a gun at us, telling us to get in his car," McCoy said. "My first reaction was to say something like, 'You've gotta be joking.' "
Her reaction angered the man, who threatened to kill them if they didn't get into the car.
"I thought about running," McCoy said, "but he seemed to figure out that was my plan and he got very, very angry. In that situation you're young and you're shocked and from that moment on it's surreal."
McCoy got into the back seat on the passenger side, Bustamante got into the front passenger seat.
The driver took off, passing the market and continuing along Kalaheo Avenue. He turned left onto Mokapu Boulevard, turned left again at Quarry Road and then right onto Kalaniana'ole Highway at the old Kailua Drive-in theater site.
"We were saying things like, 'Why are you doing this, we don't even know you, why don't you just let us go?' He just raised the gun and pointed at us again and I thought, 'OK, he means business.' "
They continued on Kalaniana'ole Highway through Castle Junction to where the road changes to Pali Highway.
Just past Castle Junction, the driver veered onto Kionaole Road.
"I started praying," McCoy said. "I was a good Catholic girl, 'Please, dear Lord, just let me get out of this mess.' We ended up below the Pali tunnels. It's all rain forest there. Dark, deserted no lights.
"I remember thinking, 'OK, this is it. This guy is taking us to a remote area, I'm gonna die tonight."
McCoy said the driver backed his car into a cul de sac, ordered the girls out, then ordered Bustamante to get in the back seat and McCoy to get in the front.
"He raped her while I sat in the front seat praying," McCoy said. "Then he jumped in the front seat and told me to take my clothes off."
Just then, a car came down Kionaole Road from the other direction and the driver holding them captive got nervous and started the car, McCoy said. She believes a group of young people in the other car had intended to park in the same spot and "party."
Eventually, the other car went on its way and the man holding the two girls turned off his car. He ordered them out and to walk into the bushes.
"She led the way and I was right behind her," McCoy said. "He told us, 'You can stop now,' and I remember thinking to myself, 'Oh God, now he's gonna kill us.' "
The kidnapper hit Bustamante in the head with the gun, knocking her to the ground, McCoy said. When he did the same to McCoy, she pretended to lose consciousness, hoping he would leave.
Instead, "he knelt down next to me, placed the gun next to my head and started to strangle me," McCoy said. "But by the grace of God, at the point I was seconds away from dying, Dede became conscious again, looked over and started running. He looked over to where she was standing, cursed at her and started running after her. I took three deep breaths and ran back to the Pali Highway, the way we had come in."
A few minutes later, she heard the shot and realized the ordeal wasn't over.
"I heard the car coming back down the road toward me. I went as deep into the bushes as I could go and waited for the car to go past. It did and I had to choose what to do. Do I run back up the hill and try to help Dede or do I go back down the hill and get help?"
McCoy remembers being totally disoriented and sliding down a hill toward a light at what turned out to be the parking lot at the Pali Golf Course.
There, she said she asked an older man who was a caretaker to use the phone.
"My hair was a mess, my clothes were torn and bloody and my face was bruised," McCoy said. "But he brought me in, sat me down and gave me a glass of guava juice."
The first call McCoy made was to Bustamante's father. The second was to police who took her back to the cul de sac where the two girls had been ordered out of the car and into the pushes.
"I was scared, but more than that I was hoping they would find her," McCoy said. "I was hopeful she would still be alive."
Those hopes ended soon after she heard one of the police officers shout, "Here she is."
McCoy was taken to the Kane'ohe Police Station and questioned until about 5 a.m. the following morning.
It would be years before any charges were filed in the case.
In July 2001, following a "cold case" investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Delmar Edmonds of Indianapolis, who was assigned to the Kane'ohe Marine Corps air station at the time Bustamante was killed, was charged with murder.
After spending nearly a year in jail awaiting trial, the charges against Edmonds were dropped in September 2002 after a private lab in Louisiana concluded that a DNA specimen taken from Bustamante's body could not link Edmonds to the crime.
Edmonds has steadfastly maintained that he did not kill the girl.