Disappearance of Luhk sisters marks 10 years


Photo shows the makeshift shrine that the family of sisters Maleina and Faloma Luhk had built on the spot in As Teo, Saipan where the two were last reported seen in the morning of May 25, 2011. The family will have a Mass of special intention at the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Chalan Kanoa today, Tuesday, at 6am. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Today, Tuesday, marks the 10th year since sisters Maleina and Faloma Luhk mysteriously disappeared in As Teo while waiting for a school bus—a decade since and yet there’s still no trace of the sisters’ whereabouts.

Maleina and Faloma were 9 and 10 years old, respectively, when they disappeared on the morning of May 25, 2011. Both just had their birthdays last February. Maleina and Faloma Luhk would have been 19 and 20 years old now, respectively.

The sisters were last reported waiting for the school bus that early morning of May 25, 2011, at a bus shelter along As Teo Drive in the corner of Santa Lourdes Road in As Teo. In that brief time, they disappeared without a trace, triggering an islandwide search that drew many volunteers in the community.

The family will be holding a Mass of special intention at the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Chalan Kanoa, today, Tuesday, at 6am.

Elbert Quitugua, the grandfather of the Luhk sisters, said in an interview yesterday at their residence in As Teo that close family and friends will have Mass of special intention and that whoever wants to attend is welcome.

Steven Merrill

Federal Bureau of Investigation Honolulu Division special agent-in-charge Steven Merrill said yesterday that the FBI has been dedicated to working with the CNMI Department of Public Safety for the past decade to find the missing girls.

Ten years later, the FBI still maintains an open investigation on the matter, Merrill said, and remains steadfast in its commitment to find the girls and exact justice.

He said the FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information regarding the whereabouts of the two sisters.

Merrill said they are grateful for the input received and continue to encourage anyone with information to come forward.

“If you, or someone you know, have information concerning the whereabouts of Faloma and Maleina Luhk, please contact the FBI’s Saipan Office at 670-322-6934,” Merrill said.

Quitugua, 67, said it is his understanding that the investigation by the FBI and the Department of Public Safety is still going on. “I don’t think they closed the books on my granddaughters. I think they’re still pursuing other information and other avenues of information if there is anything coming in,” he said.

As of now, they haven’t heard anything yet with respect to the investigation. “It’s still an open investigation,” said Quitugua, adding that the FBI and DPS are still communicating with the family.

Every now and then, the FBI “touches base” with them, he said, especially the Family Support Center in Hawaii.

“They’re [FBI] still supporting us by calling us, checking us out,” he said. “Still a painful day for us tomorrow, but we hope and pray that somebody out there would come forward.”

He said although the FBI is not currently doing a massive search for the sisters, the investigation is still open and active.

“As much as we want to pray and hope that they are…you know…God only knows where they are,” he said.

Quitugua said they just want to find out what happened to his granddaughters. “Who’s responsible? If they are alive, where are they?” he asked.

Quitugua said his daughter, who is the mother of Maleina and Faloma, currently lives in the U.S. mainland. He believes the father of the children is still in Chuuk. “As far as everybody in the family, especially the mother of my granddaughters, as much as we want to believe and hope that they are alive—we wish that very much—but 10 years is a long time,” Quitugua said.

Last year, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no Mass of special intention or remembrance for the sisters—a first. Instead, the family prayed last year at the makeshift shrine that the family had built on the spot in As Teo where the Luhk sisters were last seen.

Quitugua’s residence, where the Luhk sisters lived, is just a few meters away from the school bus shelter.

The FBI, DPS, and other law enforcers and volunteers on Saipan searched the island and coastal areas, jungles, caves, for about a month, but there was no trace of their whereabouts.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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