Funderburk’s Father Believes Death Accidental
On the evening of Friday, Feb. 14, David Funderburk was frightened for his daughter, but also hopeful of her return.
“I physically walked the trail to where she fell,” David said. “There’s a little piece of grass before the lookout where you can pull over.”
It was near this spot at Wainaku Scenic Point, located just north of Hilo, in the early evening hours of Sunday, Feb. 9, that Megan May Funderburk allegedly exited her boyfriend’s vehicle — and where her father believes she was last seen alive.
The 24-year-old’s body was found six days later, a short way down a fishermen’s trail and 30 feet over the edge of a cliffside in a heavily brushed and wooded area. Megan’s mortal remains were recovered by one branch of a volunteer search and rescue squad, organized by Chris Berquist.
It was Berquist who first confirmed both the fact and manner of Megan’s death to Big Island Now. Based on the evidence, he believes she died shortly after exiting her boyfriend’s vehicle Sunday evening.
“The timeline makes sense for it to have happened kind of right away,” Berquist said Saturday afternoon.
David believes that Megan’s boyfriend, Michael Broan, is the last person who saw her alive. He added in an interview Sunday that he believes Broan’s story of events that night is true.
Broan, who police say has been cooperating with the investigation, admitted his plans to purchase heroin on the day of Megan’s disappearance.
“He was going to go to rehab,” David said. “He wanted one last fix.”
Megan was aware of Broan’s plans to travel to a rehabilitation center in California the following day, which she’d discussed with her father in previous telephone calls. But when she learned they were on their way to a drug deal, she demanded Broan let her out of the vehicle.
David explained why he believes Broan allowed her to go, and why he didn’t reconnect with her after his business was finished. Broan said after she exited the car on foot, he and Megan subsequently discussed via cell phone meeting back up once the drug deal was complete.
“This is the typical thing that happens to addicts,” David said of Broan’s behavior. “They push everything aside for a fix.”
“Megan hated drugs, but I think that up until the very end, she was trying to help someone,” he continued. “The real thing to blame is the drugs. It was heroin that killed my daughter.”
David added he’s spoken with Broan, who is presumed to be in California, several times since Megan’s disappearance, including as recently as Saturday morning.
While David is unsure of what precisely happened next — whether Broan met his contact, or got high immediately afterward — he said he’s confident Megan’s boyfriend didn’t contribute directly to his daughter’s demise.
“I am convinced he’s telling the truth,” David said.
Part of why he’s convinced is the trip he took Saturday morning, retracing his daughter’s last moments.
After she exited the vehicle, it would make sense she’d go for a walk to calm down, David said. She loved to breathe the ocean air.
Megan is believed to have made her way down a narrow path along the edge of a cliff. It would have been dark at the time she was walking, and the trail is lined with roots. Based on recent conversations with her father, Megan was under significant mental strain and was likely angry and distraught due to the night’s events.
“She got hung up in the roots, in the pitch black, walking to get a view,” David said. “She tripped and fell over a cliff.”
Berquist, while not a criminal investigator, said he’s seen enough accidents in the wild of Hawai‘i to believe a fall in that area is plausible.
“It makes sense somebody could have fallen there on their own,” he said.
A passerby later found Megan’s phone near the spot she exited Broan’s vehicle. County search and rescue teams located one of her shoes and her shawl a short distance away from the phone, still atop the cliffside, the following day.
David said Megan had been wearing baggy pants on the night of the disappearance and the phone may have fallen out of her pocket. She was also wearing loose sneakers, one of which it’s possible she lost as she tumbled, along with her shawl.
In a press release Saturday, the Hawai‘i Police Department said it is continuing its investigation but that no foul play was suspected in Megan’s death as of that time. An autopsy will be conducted to determine Megan’s precise cause of death.
Police ask anyone in the area of the Wainaku Scenic Lookout on the evening of Sunday Feb. 9, 2020, to contact Detective William Brown at 808-961-2384 or by email at [email protected].
They may also contact Lt. Rio Amon-Wilkins at 808-961-2252 or by email at [email protected]
For now, David and his son Devon, a resident of the Big Island, are on their way home to southern Oregon to mourn their loss and wait for whatever information might come.
“I don’t know what the arrangements are, the (police) have to go through their processes,” David said. “My son and I just want to get home to our families and deal with it from there.”
Both men have been swamped by a deluge of texts and phone calls over the last two days, which are too great in number to offer each a response.
But David said that during an incredibly difficult day, his heart has been warmed by the outpouring of support he felt from the Big Island and across Hawai‘i.
“It was an amazing display of love from the community, and I really, really appreciate everyone’s concern and compassion for my daughter,” he said.
David released the following statement Sunday on a Facebook page dedicated to helping locate Megan:
“Megan will always be in our hearts. Her life was full of love for others and love of life. Anyone close to her had a very special connection with a beautiful person. Her and I were as close as a parent and child could be, and I am thankful to have experienced such a deep love. I want all of you to know how much I appreciate your friendship and love in my (family’s) life. When Megan visited me last time, she told me how blessed I was to have so many true relationships. Thank you and please take this time to cherish and love your close ones. That is what Megan would ask of us. Devon and I are looking forward to seeing you all soon.”
Megan, who often went by Mae or Mei, lived on the Big Island for five years. She worked mostly as a house painter or on farms as part of work-trade programs. Her dream was to one day operate an organic farm of her own in East Hawai‘i.
Imani Gentry-Faust, a friend of Megan’s, said she was extremely optimistic and real, with a strong faith in Jah and Rastafarian culture. The two met after Gentry-Faust saw a mural Megan had painted hanging in a bar in Pāhoa town and “knew I had to meet this person.”
“Mae was love, she understood the innocent and (held) a belief in forgiveness,” Gentry-Faust said. “Mae is a light warrior. She would walk into a room and people would smile, run to hug her or wait for one.”
“She helped me with things no one could ever understand, and I thank Jah for putting her in my life. A true gift,” she continued. “My heart goes out to her parents and brother.”