Saturday, September 17, 2016

Myles Yutaka Fukunaga

This story intrigued me, and I wanted to share it with you.

The last person ever to be executed in the State of Hawaii was a 19-year-old nisei youth named Myles Yutaka Fukunaga. 


The following info is from Downwind Productions and can be found here:

In September of 1928, 19-year-old Myles Yutaka Fukunaga abducted Gill Jamieson, the 10-year-old son of Frederick Jamieson, the vice president of the Hawaiian Trust Company. About an hour later, in a dense kiawe thicket near the Ala Wai canal in Waikiki, Fukunaga struck the child dead with a steel chisel. Later that night, he got $4000 in marked ransom money from Jamieson.

The abduction of the son of a prominent haole business executive shocked everyone. Police set up roadblocks, people were deputized at the National Armory Headquarters and organized into search parties. Many others, like the Boy Scouts and ROTC cadets joined the search for Gill. Most screamed for the death penalty to be applied to the kidnapper.

After falsely arresting and forcing a confession from Henry Kaisan, the former chauffeur of the Jamieson family, Fukunaga was caught trying to spend some of the ransom money. During his ride to the police station, the siren from the Aloha Tower sounded. Crowds jammed the streets of Honolulu to catch a glimpse of him and to demand the death penalty.

At the time of the abduction, Fukunaga was working 80 hours a week at a pantry job at the Seaside Hotel but this was not enough to allow him and his parents to escape poverty. Embittered by the contradiction between the material success promised to Americans’ and the reality of his family’s poverty, Myles attempted to fulfill his ‘American dream’ by kidnapping the son of a wealthy businessman.

This particular boy was chosen because his father’s company had recently tried to evict the Fukunaga family from their small house near Chinatown. They owed $20 in back rent. Pleading with the collector sent by the Hawaiian Trust Company was humiliating for the entire family.

During a brief trial in October 1928, Fukunaga’s court-appointed attorneys called no witnesses for the defense despite the fact that Professor Myrick wrote an open letter to Governor Wallace Farrington asking for consideration of the fact that Fukunaga "was not only highly abnormal but legally insane." On November 19, 1929, Myles Yutaka Fukunaga was hanged.

Screen Shot

This is the book that I first saw the story in. It was published in 1985 by the Hawaii Hochi, Ltd. and was written by Roland Kotani. In an ironic twist of fate Representative Roland Kotani himself was murdered in 1989 by his wife.


This is Myles' gravestone. It doesn't have his name on it, but somehow it's known to be his.  He is buried in the Moiliili Japanese Cemetery on the mauka side of Kapiolani Boulevard near Date Street.  I took this photo.  After I learned of the gravesite I went to look for it. I had mixed emotions standing before the stone . . . mostly I felt sad. 




Born February 4, 1909 (Meiji 42)


Died November 19, 1929 (Shōwa 4)


Anonymous said...

j: we both read the same story. I don't think Fukunaga was insane but he would be what we call a socio/psycho-path today. I think if the kid wasn't from a prominent (white) family Fukunanga wouldn't have been hung, but that was how the Islands were like in those days, i.e. the Massie rape case. I'm sure descendents from that family live on today, wonder if it's ever discussed. I didn't know Kotani the author was THE guy that got killed. They had a kid and she'll be like over 30 now...I wonder how she turned out knowing what her mom did. -N

Susan said...

So sad. Tks for sharing.

Kay said...

It's rather surprising that he has such a huge, expensive grave stone when he'd done such a horrible deed.

jalna said...

I wonder that sometimes too, N.

Really sad yah, Susan.

I wondered the same thing, Kay.

K and S said...

interesting story!

Anonymous said...

Interesting story, thanks for sharing. Regarding the earlier comment, I know someone who helped raise her, a very caring and generous individual. The last time we spoke I found out that she grew up to be extremely smart and successful. Stanford undergrad, then law school, now a deputy legislative counsel in California. - L

jalna said...

Oh L, I'm so glad to hear that. Thanks for sharing!

Honolulu Aunty said...

Chilling. His parents must have felt so much shame.

However, it was justice done, and he was the one who did the crime. Not like the Massey case with the military wife who "claimed" she was raped and some local boys were falsely accused and killed by her husband, friends, coordinated by her mother, and got off free and not guilty. Back in those days, the locals were second class citizens and not worth decency and justice, especially if it involved upper class white and military. They even brought in Charles Darwin to defend the murderers, and the Massey family, with their evil hearts, continued on, untouched.

So sad for the families of the innocent boys who were killed after being falsely accused and tried. Justice, in their case, happens in the heavens. Life may not be fair, but it catches up in the great scheme of things. This, I believe, and it soothes me to think that way.

Mokihana said...

Very interesting's amazing the stories history can tell us.

jalna said...

So true, Aunty.

Moki, it surprised me that we had executions here before.

Leslie's pics said...

so depressing...

Ainakoa said...

Whoa !!! Seeing this picture of the grave site brings back a lot of memories. My family haka is right next to this grave at Moilili graveyard. When I first saw it as a little kid for a memorial service for my great grandmother it stood out because of the red lava rock and the bright red base, which has faded in brightness over the years. It gave me a very strange uncomfortable feeling the first time I saw it. I felt a very angry vibe from it.

Years later my Mom attended a memorial service for my grandmother and before the ceremony started she was talking to the bonsan assigned by Hongwanji to administer the ceremony. He was a young priest from Japan who had just arrived in Hawaii for training. He stood in front of the grave and stared at it intently for a long long time. He told my Mom that whomever was buried here died a violent death as a result of some very bad karma affecting act that they committed. The priest said that the writing said this and that the purpose was to help the soul find forgiveness and everlasting peace. The lack of a name was to enable his spirit and his grave to exist in anonymity and to find peace.

My grandparents never said anything about the red lava rock grave next to the family haka when asked. We only learned about it when my cousin went on a Glen Grant Ghost Tour and he took them to this grave site. She was amazed at the history of it because like me she had been to many family ceremonies over the years and had also wondered about it. She said it was kind of strange to find out the story behind it after all those years and that at first she wondered why Glen Grant was stopping at our family haka.

Whenever I return home I make it a point to visit my family haka and make offerings and say hi to my relatives interred there and I always look at the red lava rock grave sadly which to me represents 2 lives full of potential that ended so young. I never see any offerings or fresh flowers placed there but you can tell that occasionally someone has been there albeit not for a long time. So there must still be distant relatives in Hawaii ? My Mom says that the immediate family moved back to Japan after the execution according to my grandmother. There were no crematoriums in Hawaii back then (from what I've been told not till the early to mid 1930's) and as this was an Issei graveyard a lot of the older graves have folks buried there under the haka's.

You always find extremely interesting things (stories / photos) Jalna that always make me smile or go WHOA I haven't thought about that in many years !!! Don't ever stop !!



jalna said...

Thank you so much for your feedback, Ainakoa! Your added info is so interesting to me. I wondered about his immediate family and the shame and sadness that they must've endured.

Ainakoa said...

I know yeah ?? Back then the shame and sadness of the immediate family must have been insurmountable. Grave enough to the point that moving to Japan and starting over was the only way forward for them. Everyone in Hawaii would know what happened and who you were just by your family name and the stigma would last for a long long time. I remember the Tantalus Murder of the girl from Roosevelt back in the late 70's and the follow-on trial of Rodney Kiyota. I remember reading that his family changed their name in order to live as much of a normal life as possible. One event affecting so many lives.