Search for Saleh halted

Lawyer had cellphone when he left house

Police detective John Hofschneider uses a Gator utility vehicle during the search for missing assistant public defender Jamal Saleh at Laulau Beach area last Friday. As of last night, Saleh was still missing. (Ferdie de la Torre)

Missing lawyer Jamal A. Saleh had a cellphone with him when he took an early morning walk from his home in As Teo last Tuesday, Saipan Tribune learned.

That’s what prompted the Department of Public Safety to focus their search in Kagman, San Vicente, and Laulau Beach areas on Thursday and Friday, sources said.

The sources refused to elaborate on the cellphone as investigation is ongoing.

Saipan Tribune spotted DPS detectives scouring the jungle and shoreline of Laulau Beach on Friday afternoon. Some detectives were on utility vehicles during the search.

Lt. Jeffrey Olopai, chief of the DPS Criminal Investigation Bureau, said yesterday that detectives did not conduct a search last weekend, but continued their investigation.

Olopai said the search on Thursday in As Teo, Kagman, San Vicente, and Laulau Beach areas were done from 8am until 4:30pm. On Friday, search began at 8:30am and ended at 4:30pm.

Detectives set up a command post at the Laulau Beach last Friday.

Olopai said a total of 15 DPS detectives and Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services-Search and Rescue Unit were involved in the search.

Because of the large areas covered by the search, they asked DFEMS to help out, Olopai said.

He said civilian volunteers who want to help in the search should call DPS at 664-9001 to receive instructions.

Olopai said that, although they were searching Laulau Beach, they covered only the jungle and shoreline areas as there was no indication for them to go in the water.

Police received a complaint on Tuesday at 11:36am that the 49-year-old Saleh, an assistant public defender, was missing. Earlier that same day, Tuesday, Saleh apparently could not sleep and went for a walk at 1:30am. Since then, text messages to the lawyer went unanswered. He has not returned home and has not reported for work at the Office of the Public Defender.

Saipan Tribune tried to obtain comments though email last week from assistant public defender Shoshanah Epstein but she has yet to reply.

Saleh and Epstein came together to Saipan from New Mexico last May to work at the OPD.

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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