An Idaho man and his California girlfriend were camping on Hawaii island, unaware that police launched a search for them after their families reported receiving a phone call from someone claiming to have one of them.
Kevin Butler, 21, and Kimberly Linder, 18, contacted their parents Wednesday evening, hours after police asked for help locating them, Linder’s mother, Christine Cearley, said Thursday.
Hawaii County police previously said both are from McCall, Idaho, but Linder’s mother said she is from Oakdale, Calif.
The couple had checked out of their Kona hotel Friday and told their families they planned to camp in a tent in a valley, part of a backpacking adventure exploring the Big Island.
"Everything was great," Cearley said, "except that a couple of days ago, Kevin’s mom received a call in the middle of the night basically saying someone had her kid."
Their families weren’t able to reach them and saw that Butler’s bank account was overdrawn, Cearley said, so they contacted police. When police began investigating, they told Cearley there was an unidentified body matching her daughter’s description.
Meanwhile, Linder’s relatives were making plans to travel to Hawaii to search for them. That’s when Cearley got a text message from Linder saying they were OK, followed by a phone call, saying they didn’t have any cellphone reception while camping in Waipio Valley and had no idea anyone was looking for them until they later retrieved frantic phone messages.
"We came down from the mountain, and our cellphones were blowing up," Cearley recalled her daughter saying.
People in the Honokaa area spotted the couple and notified police, who met with them and checked their identification.
The couple doesn’t know anything about the disturbing call from a man’s voice using a blocked number, claiming to have Butler, Cearley said.
Police were closing the missing-persons case and don’t plan to investigate the phone call, said Capt. Richard Miyamoto.
"We located them. We found out that they were fine," he said. "They were in no trouble. There’s nothing further at this point."
There’s no suspicion of any wrongdoing, Miyamoto said.
"They’re a little freaked out," Cearley said of Butler and Linder.
The couple planned to take a bus to Kona on Thursday to go diving and parasailing. Then they’ll cut their trip short and go home.