UNSOLVED COLD CASE MURDER: Walter “Fig” Mitchell, Kaua’i, Hawaii

UNSOLVED COLD CASE MURDER: Walter “Fig” Mitchell, Kaua’i, Hawaii
Cold Case: Walter "Fig" Mitchell II
#RIPWalterFigMitchell 27th October 1941 – 10th June 2002, may you rest in peace.

Walter Robert “Fig” Mitchell II was born on 27th October 1941 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was one of many Walter’s in his family, his grandfather was also named Walter Mitchell, but was given the nickname “Babe”. Fig’s grandfather passed away on 2nd June 2004, never knowing who brutally murdered his grandson, Fig, in his own home and living with the knowledge that he had outlived his own precious grandchild.  

At the time of his death, Fig had three children and one grandson and was living opposite the Kaua’i Highway. He moved to Hawaii in the 70s’ after living on the mainland and other islands for a number of years. He brought his children along with him and the family made their way to Kaua’i in the 1980s.  

It wasn’t long after Fig and his family moved to Kaua’i that Fig began his journey to become a well-loved household name. He was a popular voice on his local radio station as a sports broadcaster known as the “colour man” for KAUI station with his friend and co-host, J Robertson. Fig then moved on to become News and Sports Director, working alongside the morning crew of Ron Wiley and Le Cataluña at KQNG radio. He was widely known for his phrase,

Howzit Gangy!  

When he moved on from KQNG station he began writing for the Kaua’i Times which is now the well-known newspaper, Garden Island. It was during his time there that he highlighted the incredible and inspirational youth’s in sport. Even those known to not read the sport would read his columns and articles because they enjoyed them so much. He touched so many people in his 60-years and would be well missed. 

Not only did he broadcast sports, but he coached sports as well, he was an Umpire, League Director, Announcer, friend and Youth Sports Coach during his career and coached numerous teams from Little League to high school basketball teams.

He had many other nicknames such as, “Papa Fig” and “The Jolly Brown Giant”. He was dedicated to youth sports for over 20 years and was involved in various sporting activities. He coached for Pop Warner, Little League and a high school girls basketball team. He was an inspiration to many people during his career. 

Friday 7th June 2002 

Fig, who was 60-years-old at the time of his death was living in 4 – 422 Kuhio Highway in Wailua, Kapa’a, Kaua’i, Hawaii. Days before his brutal slaying on Friday 7th June 2002, he reported to the local police in Kaua’i that he had been robbed. His wallet with cash and cards had been stolen from his home. Fig told the police that someone had entered his home and stolen the wallet.

There is no evidence that the robbery case was ever solved, or if there were any suspects in the case, there could be a possible link to the crime and his murder. At the time of writing it is not known where Fig was when his wallet was stolen, if he was at home, in bed, or where the wallet was in the home when someone broke in.

We have reached out to Kaua’i cold case detectives to discuss this case, but at present have not heard back. 

What Happened on Monday 10th June 2002? 

At around 1 pm or so Fig’s neighbour, who lived in the apartment above Fig, called the Kaua’i police department requesting police assistance. Fig’s body was found with multiple injuries in his ground-floor Kuhio Highway apartment.

When this was first reported, the police did not disclose the cause of death until the autopsy had been completed, they still have not disclosed where in the house (at the time of writing) he was found or if there was anything else overturned in the home. 

The autopsy results confirmed that Fig had been killed as a result of blunt force trauma to the head, which led the authorities to initiate a murder investigation.  Reports from the articles we have researched online said that Fig was killed in the afternoon of 10th June 2002, which means he wasn’t dead long before he was found.  

Initially, after the autopsy report had been released and the murder investigation began, the police wouldn’t comment on the weapon used. However, when we researched this case, we came across a database online that is linked in the references, below, that stated it was most likely a hammer, or similar tool that was used to killed Fig.

The murder weapon was never recovered, but as Fig lived right beside the highway, and was surrounded by vast forestry and beach it could be the murder weapon had been disposed of along the highway or in one of the vast areas. I’ll go into further detail on the areas later in this post.  

Whilst the police confirmed that Fig’s body was found somewhere in his apartment, Detective Perez that was the lead detective on the case at the time, stated to Garden Island that they couldn’t confirm if that is where the murder took place, nor would he confirm where in the apartment Fig’s body was found.

At the time of writing this leads me to believe that Fig was killed somewhere else and his body brought back to his home. Or, maybe he was badly injured was returned home where he later died from his injuries. At present this is all speculation, but until I hear back from the police in the cold case unit, that’s all I can do, speculate. 

There was a report by an unknown source that an African-American man was seen driving away from Fig’s house onto the highway, at the time of writing we do not know which way the individual went on the highway. He was said to be shirtless and was driving a dark blue/green sedan, there was no other description of the vehicle or the driver released and there has been no confirmation this individual was spoken to, or if he is linked to the case at all. 

Mary Jouppi, a long-time companion of Fig’s was interviewed by the Garden Island and had told the reporter at the time she had moved to the mainland and that Fig was supposed to join her there, but never got the chance to do so as his life was cruelly taken from him.

Mary stated in her interview that there isn’t a day that went by she didn’t think of Fig and that she had contacted the Kaua’i police to tell them that there were a lot of people coming in and out of Fig’s home. It’s not clear in the article whether this was a regular occurrence or just leading up to Fig’s death. Mary had given the information (including names, addresses and numbers) of all the individuals to the police, but stated in the article with Garden Island that:  

Nobody did anything about it

The upstairs neighbour declined any press interviews and the name of the individual has not been released. 

Fig’s body was laid to rest on 24th June 2002 at Kapa’a County Cemetery following a service at the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, Kapa’a chapel. He was survived by his grandfather, father, three children, sister and grandson. He was the only recorded African-American male in the state of Hawaii murdered around June 2002.  

Mapping out the Area

Walter Fig Mitchell
Island of Kaua’i with distance from Walter’s home to Lae Nani Beach

As mentioned above I said I would touch on the area around Fig’s property to give you a general idea of just how many places there is to not only dump a murder weapon but to dump a body.  

Walter Fig Mitchell
4-422 Kuhio Hwy

Kuhio Highway (Kuhio Hwy as it’s known) was adjacent to Fig’s apartment complex. The highway stretches along 28.2 miles with dozens of turn-offs, including one that leads to the Wailua River nature spot. The highway spans along the North and East shore of Kaua’i Island. The North end to Route 560 in Princeville and South end to Route 50 in Lihue. 

Distance from Wailua River to Walter’s Home 

Lae Nani Beach is 13.7 miles (20 minutes’ drive) from Fig’s apartment. There are at least four forested areas on the way to the beach from Fig’s apartment.  

  1. Halelea Forest Reserve 
  2. Moloaa Forest Reserve 
  3. Kealia Forest Reserve 
  4. Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve  

That’s plenty of places to dispose of a murder weapon, bloody clothes, and a body. So, if Fig wasn’t killed at his home, then why return him there after the murder?  

WALTER FIG MITCHELL
Photo Credit toSho73 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Directly opposite Fig’s home is Alakuki Point which is on the other side of the Kuhio Hwy. Alakuki Point is known to locals as A’A Kuki. A’A Kuki is a historical archaeological site listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is the site of the Temple of Heiau (temples that are used to help treat the sick, heiau ho’ õla). The site spans 1.1 acres of land (0.45ha) which is just one more vast space of land that the murderer could have disposed of evidence.  

Walter Fig Mitchell
Photo Credit to Condos in Kaua’i Blog

There is also the famous, but difficult trail called the Kukui Trail which is an 8.0 km trail located near Wainiha, Kaua’i that features a stunning waterfall. The trail is said to be difficult with moderate people traffic. Whilst this may not have been an option given that it could be busy with tourists or locals, there would still be an opportunity along the trail to dump a weapon. 

Walter Fig Mitchell
Photo Credit to Trails.com

CCTV & Traffic Cameras 

Let’s bear in mind it was 2002, technology wasn’t as spectacular as it is today. However, we did reach out to the Department of Transportation in Kaua’i and ask about the Kuhio Hwy cameras. We were able to see for ourselves there is a live feed of the cameras that shows Coconut Marketplace and Kaua’i Bypass Road, but the DoT were unable to confirm if they had cameras in June 2002. Even if they did, it very well could have been the live feed which would mean no way of capturing a dark blue or green sedan with a shirtless African-American male driving.  

You can view the live feed of the camera, here.

Who to Contact if You Know Something 

If you live in the US/Canada or don’t mind calling a US number then you can get in touch with the detectives on 808-241-1757 

If you prefer to email you can contact the detectives at coldcase@kauai.gov 

Alternatively, you can send us a message here and we will pass along any information.

References 

Kaua’i Cold Case Information on Walter Robert “Fig” Mitchell II

Kaua’i Government Agencies Information

Kaua’i Prosecuting Attorney Information

Kuki Heiau

Murder Data Org FBI Information

The Garden Island Newspaper Article – Saturday 15th June 2002

The Garden Island Newspaper Article – Wednesday 26th June 2002

The Garden Island Newspaper Article – Wednesday 10th July 2002

The Garden Island Newspaper Article – Wednesday 9th July 2003

Walter Fig Mitchell Obituary – Sunday 23rd June 2002

 

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8 thoughts on “UNSOLVED COLD CASE MURDER: Walter “Fig” Mitchell, Kaua’i, Hawaii

  1. This was a very interesting read. It really makes you think when you read about cold cases and wonder what was missed back then or what will be found now to help solve the case.

  2. Very interesting post. I love how you took the time to reach out to various people involved in the case, or who may know something about the case.
    Did you tell you were writing an article or something? I wouldn’t imagine many would be keen to get back to bloggers, despite the fact that we write more interesting sh*t than the papers!

  3. I love true crime! Thank you so much for posting this, I’m so glad I found your blog. RIP Fig, and thank you for bringing attention to his case.

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