Sequoya Vargas

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Above: Sequoya, circa 1993

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: August 22, 1993 from Hilo, Hawaii
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Age: 16 years old
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Native American female. Black hair, brown eyes. Sequoya is of Tarahumara Indian descent. She understands Spanish. She is a vegetarian.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Sequoya was last seen in Hilo, Hawaii on August 22, 1993. She told her mother she was spending the night with a female friend. She and her friend were picked up by Richard Damian Serrano while hitchhiking. Serrano took Sequoya's friend home, then Sequoya went to a house in Nanawale Estates to watch television with him, Matthew Gibbs and Jason McCubbins. Sequoya knew Gibbs but had never met the other two men before. She never returned home. Police initially classified her as a runaway, but a month later her case was reclassified as a homicide.

    Gibbs eventually confessed that he, McCubbins and Serrano had raped Sequoya, beaten her and tossed her over a sea cliff. Gibbs stated Sequoya drank alcohol mixed with prescription cough medicine and passed out. The three men raped her while she was unconscious, then she woke up and started screaming. McCubbins punched her to try to make her be quiet, then put her in the trunk of his car; Serrano and Gibbs drove separately in a van. They drove to McKenzie Park and tossed her off a 20-foot cliff. A few minutes later they could hear Sequoya moaning, so Serrano went down the cliff, swam her out to sea and returned without her.

    McCubbins pleaded no contest to kidnapping and manslaughter, and Gibbs to sexual assault. McCubbins was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Gibbs was put on probation for five years, but he was later sent to prison after being convicted of felony drug charges. Serrano left Hawaii two days after Sequoya disappeared. He was indicted for kidnapping, second-degree murder and sexual assault in 1995, but he remained a fugitive until 1999, when he was arrested in Mexico. Gibbs and McCubbins testified against him at his trial. Serrano maintained his innocence. He admitted he met Sequoya on the night of her disappearance and drove her to McCubbins's house, but he denied being present when she was raped and said he never harmed her and wasn't there when she was thrown off the cliff. Serrano was convicted of all charges in May 2000. He must serve a minimum of fifty years in prison for become eligible for parole. Photos of him and McCubbins are posted below this case summary.

    Sequoya's ex-boyfriend, Joshua Curry, was scheduled to testify at the trial for her murder, but he disappeared in November 1994 before the trial, and was never found. It's unclear whether his disappearance was related to his scheduled testimony, but foul play is suspected in his case.

    Sequoya was born in Fallbrook, California. She was a sophomore at Pahoa High School in 1993. She was applying to an art college and is described as creative, gifted and a skilled chess player. Her body has never been found, but foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.

    McCubbins Serrano
    Left: Matthew Gibbs;
    Right: Richard Damian Serrano

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Hawaii County Police Department

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    Source Information
    The Honolulu Star-Bulletin
    The Honolulu Advertiser
    Hawaii VINELink

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    Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated March 16, 2013; details of disappearance updated.

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