At least 17 missing since ’95

DPS chief says police continue investigations into missing persons

Search teams did find the body of missing Joan Taitano on Tuesday at the bottom of a cliff near the radar building in Marpi, two days after she was reported missing. But it seems her case is the exception, not the norm. Since 1995, at least 17 persons have been reported missing in the CNMI, yet those cases remain unresolved.

And there could be more. The 17 missing persons are the only ones that could be gleaned from the Saipan Tribune archives. Besides Taitano, the last person who was reported missing was Jamal Saleh, a lawyer with the Office of the Public Defender.

Police Commissioner Robert Guerrero said yesterday that the Department of Public Safety continues to look into these cases, based on any information or leads received.

Here is a look at some of the reported missing persons in the CNMI:

-Assistant public defender Jamal Saleh. The 49-year-old lawyer was last seen walking from his As Teo home on Oct. 3, 2017, at 1:30am, as he could not sleep that night.

-Lito Aguilar, a Filipino fisherman, was reported missing after he went fishing on a boat on April 19, 2017, but failed to return to Sugar Dock.

-Mei Hua Zhao, 25, a scuba diving instructor, was reported missing in October 2015. Her friends discovered her 2015 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck parked behind Joker’s Bar near McDonald’s/Mobil gas station in Garapan.

-Jian Zhu Deng, 52, manager of Deng Shi Auto Shop in Garapan. He went spearfishing alone at Banzai Cliff in Marpi on Sept. 7, 2015, but never returned home. His Nissan Pathfinder was found by family members parked at Banzai Cliff the following day. A few days later, a search team recovered his spear gun from the lower level of the Banzai cliffline.

-Saipan Fresh Market owner Zhi Yuan Li was reported missing on Jan. 17, 2015. His Toyota Tacoma pickup truck was found abandoned on a dirt road between Ladder Beach and Obyan Beach. A family member offered $50,000 cash for information on his whereabouts.

-Japanese sisters Natsuki and Chinatsu Yamada. The two went missing after they went to Wing Beach in Marpi on June 30, 2014. Their rented car was found that same day. A search and rescue team recovered on July 2, 2014, the inflatable raft that was believed used by the sisters. The parents have been regularly visiting Saipan to follow up on the police investigation. They offered a cash reward for information.

-Sisters Faloma and Malein Luhk. Faloma was 10 years old and Maleina was 9 years old when they disappeared while waiting for a school bus near their house in As Teo on May 25, 2011. An extensive islandwide search was conducted for a month.

-Hubert Siegfried Friedle, 55. He was last seen on July 23, 2012, in San Antonio. His red Honda Civic car was discovered parked the next day before noon at Pakpak Beach in San Antonio. The car was locked.

-Qi Run Li, manager of King’s Disco in Garapan. He was last seen driving a Toyota Corolla in China Town on June 7, 2010. His car was recovered the following day in a parking lot formerly occupied by Shirley’s Coffee Shop along Middle Road in Chalan Laulau. His family offered a $20,000 reward for information.

-John Garcia Manahane, 24. He was last seen in the early part of October 2005 on Tinian. There was no breakthrough, but there were speculations he was killed and buried on a farm on Tinian.

-Manuel L. Dela Cruz, 79, was last seen walking in the early morning hours in San Jose, Tinian on Sept. 30, 2000. An islandwide search was done for several weeks.

-Yuji Watanabe, 65. He was last seen on March 1, 1998. His rented Toyota car was found abandoned at the Bird Island Lookout the following day. The car’s ignition key was recovered inside the vehicle. His bag, which contained his eyeglasses, was found on the cliff’s edge.

-Ngai Fung Chang, 27, and his girlfriend, Lai Meung Kou, 28. The honeymooners were reported missing in March 1996. Parents and relatives came to Saipan in March or May 1996 after the two failed to return to Hong Kong on their scheduled arrival. The couple was reportedly last dropped by a taxicab in China Town. The parents offered a $20,000 reward for information.

-Tian Ming, one of the then-owners of Sea King Restaurant and Joy Motel. He was reported missing on April 30, 1995, in Marpi. Ming’s Toyota Camry was recovered at Banzai Cliff. Bloodstains were noted inside the car. DPS at that time did not release much information about the case.

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

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