4-04-24 East Hawai’i Detective Derek Morimoto Honored with Haweo Award 

Hawai‘i Police Department
Office of the Police Chief                  
Chief Benjamin T. Moszkowicz
Phone: (808) 961-2244

Media Release

For his steadfast dedication to resolving unsolved homicides, Hawai‘i Police Department Detective Derek Morimoto of the Area I (East Hawai‘i) Criminal Investigation Section was honored with the Haweo Award during a ceremony held at Hawai‘i County Council chambers in Hilo on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

The award was presented by the Council’s Parks and Recreation and Public Safety Committee, which recognizes county police and fire department personnel who go above and beyond the call of duty. Haweo, for which the award is named, means to glow or to be radiant. Detective Morimoto was presented a lei and a certificate signed by each Councilmember.

A 26-year veteran of the department, Detective Morimoto was recognized for his unwavering commitment investigating unsolved homicides and pushing for the prosecution of homicide cases that have been solved and forwarded to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, but have not yet gone to court. He is dedicated to seeking justice for the victims of these heinous crimes, as well as their surviving family and friends.

As the only detective in East Hawai‘i dedicated to primarily working on unsolved homicides, Detective Morimoto has had tremendous success during the 8-plus years in the position. Some of the cases he has worked are more than 50 years old with Detective Morimoto reviewing thousands of pages of old police reports, lab reports, re-interviewing family members and witnesses, analyzing evidence, and sending evidence to be tested.      

“The work that Derek does is very challenging, yet he is patient and meticulous,” said Captain Rio Amon-Wilkins, who is Detective Morimoto’s commander.

“He takes the work that he does personally. He investigates cases with determination, heart, and an unwavering dedication to justice. He does fantastic work.”

Amon-Wilkins noted a particular 1978 homicide case in which a 26-year-old visitor was murdered in Kalapana. After countless hours of additional investigation and the identification of a suspect, Detective Morimoto routed the case to Office of the Prosecuting Attorney in February 2019, and almost 3-and-a-half years later, a Big Island grand jury indicted the 72-year-old suspect for second-degree murder.

Captain Amon-Wilkins noted that as the senior detective in their section, Detective Morimoto is someone that other officers, including himself, look to and discuss ideas and cases with given Morimoto’s extensive knowledge and expertise.

Captain Amon-Wilkins continued, “Detective Morimoto truly exemplifies Hawai‘i Police Department’s core values of integrity, professionalism, compassion, teamwork, and community satisfaction. Regardless of when the crime occurred, Derek is committed to seeking justice.” 

Deputy Chief Reed Mahuna added, “Derek and I joined the department together and I am very proud of his accomplishments, as well as his selfless dedication to our community. He is an extremely valuable member of our department and is very deserving of this award.”

This is Detective Morimoto’s first Haweo award. His hard work has earned him several accolades during his career, including being honored as the Officer of the Month by the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawai‘i in August 2010, April 2013, and May 2020. Detective Morimoto received the May 2020 award for his work on a death case that was initially classified as a suicide, however was re-classified as a homicide due to Detective Morimoto’s investigative efforts and resourcefulness.

In 2016, Detective Morimoto received the HSLEOA Officer of the Year award from the  Hawai‘i State Law Enforcement Officials Association for his investigative work.

You can learn more about HPD’s unsolved homicides at https://www.hawaiipolice.com/unsolved-homicides. If you have a tip regarding an unsolved homicide, please email unsolvedhomicides@hawaiicounty.gov.  

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