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Community Prays for Benny Boy’s Safe Return

December 28, 2019, 6:33 AM HST
* Updated December 28, 12:27 PM
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Dozens of people wept and prayed together at a home in Keaukaha, pleading to God for the safe return of 6-year-old Benny Boy Rapoza.

On Friday afternoon, the group joined in a prayer circle with Benny Boy’s family at the oceanfront property where the child was last seen just over a week ago. After the prayer, people were encouraged to walk around the area and say their own prayer for Benny Boy.

Ines Silva came out to Friday’s prayer circle. She embraced the boy’s mother, Debra Decker and they wept together.

Silva only knows Decker as a cashier at Sack N Save. When she goes to the grocery store, she explains, how she looks for Decker.

“So bright, beautiful, excellent,” Silva described Decker.

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Silva said she felt kindred to Decker as she herself lost her 17-year-old a few days before Christmas in 2014.

Debra Decker (third from right) prays with community during a prayer circle Friday for the safe return of her son, Benny Boy Rapoza. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)

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“I just had to be here – to support her and to love her,” she said.

Benny Boy was last seen on his birthday at the Keaukaha residence on the 2100 block of Kalanianaole Avenue at approximately 3 p.m. The child is diagnosed with nonverbal autism and needs immediate care.

Anyone with information on Benny Boy’s whereabouts is asked to call police at 808-935-3311.

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Decker, of Ainaloa, was working her shift at Sack N Save when Benny Boy disappeared. Decker said the family is usually never in the Keaukaha area, but she decided to do something different this year and take her family to her boyfriend’s house to celebrate Benny Boy and his twin sister’s birthday.

“Before I left for work I held him a little longer and told him: ‘love you so much birthday boy,’” Decker recalls. “I keep reliving it.”

Decker’s daughter, Tabitha Marcelo, was home when Benny Boy disappeared. Earlier that day, she said she had taken the kids swimming. Benny Boy got in the water with her briefly and quickly wanted to get out. Later that afternoon while lying down with her newborn baby, she was called out of the house as a family member alerted her to her brother’s disappearance.

“He’s hidden from us before — almost five hours one time,” Marcelo explained.

While there are strong suspicions Benny Boy went into the water, Marcelo doesn’t believe that. She thinks there is a possibility that he was taken.

Decker first learned that her son was missing when she got an emergency call at work at about 6 p.m. from her boyfriend giving her the news. By the time Decker got back to the house, she explained there officers everywhere.

“It started raining that night,” she said through tears. “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare come true.”

The community rallied in the coming days of Benny Boy’s disappearance, scouring the area. Many of the volunteers only knew Decker as a cashier at the grocery store. Moana-Lei Mauga of Kaumana is one of her customers. She has been leading the volunteer efforts in the search for Benny Boy.

“I literally make my way to her line,” Mauga said of Decker while shopping at Sack N Save. “She brightens people’s days.”

On the second day of the search, Mauga said, over 100 people came out to search the property and neighborhood for Benny Boy. People volunteered their time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

“The love is amazing,” Decker said Friday sitting on the lanai of the Keaukaha home, adding the outpouring of support has been overwhelming.

Decker explained a police dog tracked Benny Boy’s scent to the shoreline early on in the search. However, like her daughter, she is having a hard time believing he is in the water.

“I want him to be found,” Decker said. “I want him to be alive. I don’t want them to pull him out of the ocean.”

Divers with Hawai‘i County Fire Department as well as volunteer professional divers have been searching the coastline and found nothing.

“It’s like he vanished into thin air — I don’t understand,” Decker said emphatically. “I will never stop looking of him.”

Hawai‘i County Police and Fire Departments actively searched the surrounding area and shoreline until calling it off on Christmas Eve. Volunteers however, have not stopped the search efforts in the surrounding area and nearby waters.

Police and Fire are no longer participating in active searches. However, detectives are still investigating Benny Boy’s disappearance and encouraging anyone with information to report it to police.

“There’s no evidence in the ocean, no evidence in the bushes,” Mauga said. “I’m starting to look at the other possibilities, if he was possibly taken.”

Mauga thinks there’s more that can be done. While search efforts have continued, she is now printing out flyers to pass around islandwide.

“Don’t miss a beat, that’s my idea,” she said.

There is discussion about fundraising for a reward and to keep search efforts going.

Mauga said they will continue with the search, adding they’ll take as much volunteers as they can get. Divers and hunters with tracking dogs are also needed.

Anyone interested in helping financially with the search of Benny Boy can go to any Bank of Hawai‘i and donate to the account “Special Donation for Benny Rapoza.”

Benny is described as 3-feet tall, 50 pounds with brown eyes and short brown hair, thin build and having a fair complexion. He was last seen bareback and wearing a diaper.

Anyone with information on Benny Boy’s whereabouts is asked to call police at 808-935-3311.

Anyone interested in volunteering can get information on the Facebook page: “Find Benjamin Rapoza.”

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