Hawai‘i detective honored with Haweo Award for investigating unsolved homicides

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Detective Derek Morimoto received the Haweo Award on April 3. Photo Courtesy: Hawai‘i Police Department

For his steadfast dedication to resolving unsolved homicides, Hawai‘i Police Department Detective Derek Morimoto was honored with the Haweo Award during a ceremony held at Hawai‘i County Council chambers in Hilo on April 3.
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. Morimoto was presented a lei and a certificate signed by each council member.
A 26-year veteran of the Hawai‘i Police Department, Morimoto works within the department’s Area I (East Hawai‘i) Criminal Investigation Section. He was recognized for his 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.
As the only detective in East Hawai‘i dedicated to primarily working on unsolved homicides, Morimoto has had “tremendous success” during his 8-plus years in the position, according to the Hawai‘i Police Department.

Some of the cases Morimoto has worked are more than 50 years old, requiring Morimoto to review thousands of pages of old police reports, lab reports, re-interview family members and witnesses, analyze evidence and send evidence to be tested.      
“The work that Derek does is very challenging, yet he is patient and meticulous,” said Capt. Rio Amon-Wilkins, who is 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, 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.
Amon-Wilkins noted that as the senior detective in their section, Morimoto is someone that other officers, including himself, look to and discuss ideas and cases with given Morimoto’s extensive knowledge and expertise.
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 said, “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 Morimoto’s first Haweo Award. His 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. 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 Morimoto’s investigative efforts and resourcefulness.
In 2016, 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 the Hawai‘i Police Department’s unsolved homicides at

If you have a tip regarding an unsolved homicide, email [email protected].


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