Is the Honolulu Strangler Dead or Still at Large?

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The Honolulu Strangler, also known as The Honolulu Rapist, may be deceased if the prime suspect was really the killer.

After five confirmed deaths at the hands of the killer and links to an additional four victims, the case remains unsolved today despite the 27-person task force that was assembled to catch him.

The Case of the Honolulu Strangler

The killer is suspected to be a smooth talker who targeted women in the Waipahu and Sand Island areas of Honolulu in 1985 and 1986. Each of the five known victims was sexually assaulted and then strangled to death. The Honolulu Police Department established a 27-person task force after the first three victims were linked.

It wasn’t until the fifth victim, Linda Pesce, that authorities caught a break in the case. A man named Howard Gay Dutcher came forward and told them that a psychic had informed him of the location of Linda Pesce’s body. Dutcher led them to a spot on Sand Island where he insisted the body would be found although it was not. Her body was actually found on Sand Island in a different location later on.

Howard Gay Dutcher quickly became the prime suspect after clues started to add up. Dutcher’s ex-wife told police he was a “smooth talker” and gave them insight into his appetite for sexual bondage, including the fact he often had sex with her after tying her hands behind her back, which is the same thing that was done to each of the victims prior to their assault and murder.

Aside from the similarities to the killers’ profile, Dutcher’s ex-wife also stated that each of the murders followed arguments between the two of them. On the dates of those arguments, Dutcher had left after an argument and not returned until the next morning.

He also drove the same type of car described by witnesses in some of the attacks and had a vasectomy, which evidence suggested the killer did as well.

The Arrest and Release

Authorities arrested Dutcher on May 9th but released him due to insufficient evidence in the case–including the fact that he failed a polygraph test. Two months later a witness came forward who had seen the last victim, Pesce, with the killer. During a lineup that included Dutcher, the witness successfully identified him as the man she saw with Pesce just before her assault and murder.

The woman ended up refusing to testify or further cooperate, telling police that Dutcher had seen her on April 29th as well. Fearing for her own safety, the witness who could have brought the case to an end ultimately backed out. The killings stopped after Dutcher fled to the mainland, and no killings or rapes have been linked to The Honolulu Strangler since.

Dutcher died in 2012, but the case is still alive. If Dutcher was not the killer, who is?