Left and Center: Jie Zhao circa, 1988
Right: Age Progressed to age 37
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: February 11, 1988
Missing From: Honolulu, Island of Oahu, Hawaii
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: April 10, 1975
Age: 12 years old
Height and Weight: 4’11” and 75 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Asian Female, Black hair, Brown eyes, Jie Zhao’s teeth were slightly crooked at the time of her 1988 abduction, her eyeteeth were half grown at the time as well, Jie Zhao might possibly be using the following names given: Jiezhao Li, Jie-Zhao Li, Li Jiezhao, and possibly Li Jie Zhao
Clothing/Jewelry Description: An adult sized wristwatch
NCMEC Number: 771613
Details of Disappearance
Jie Zhao was last seen in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 11th 1988. At the time she disappeared, Jie Zhao was selling Zippy’s Chili Tickets door to door for a school fundraiser. She was selling these in her Nuuanu Avenue where she lived in an apartment at the time with her family. Jie Zhao promised her mother, Yan Ruan Li, that she would be back by 6:00 pm.
Yan Ruan gave her daughter an adult sized wristwatch and Jie Zhao said she would time herself while she delivered the tickets. Jie Zhao never returned home and was never heard from again. Jie Zhao was last seen at some point between 4:30 pm and 4:45 pm. She was seen in the vicinity of two 7-eleven stores on Nuaanu and Kuakini Street.
This is just a few blocks away from her home at the time. She was approaching people who were going in and out of the store. She also did this as they got into our out of their cars. It’s possible Jie Zhao got into a vehicle at this location. Other witness accounts place the child on the corner of South School Street and Nuuanu Avenue.
There, she was observed speaking to a still unidentified individual. The individual is described as being a Caucasian male who was between 30 and 35 years of age in 1988. He was approximately 6 feet tall and he had dark blonde hair which was combed back. He had a high forehead as well. This individual is considered a person of interest in the case.
When Jie Zhao didn’t return home that evening, her family began to search for her through the neighborhood. They called police but they didn’t begin searching until the following morning after her disappearance. Massive and extensive search efforts happened but no trace of the child was ever found.
Investigators are also looking for another man who Jie Zhao may have been seen with on the day of her disappearance and afterwards. The man is described as being dark-skinned who appeared to be in his 30s. His hair was pulled back into what appeared to be a red ponytail at the time.
The man was driving an older model, yellow colored Chevrolet. The car appeared to have been made between 1954 and 1957. The car had gray primer spots on it. It’s possible Jie Zhao was seen getting into a vehicle like this on the day of her presumed abduction. Sketches of these two individuals have been created and distributed after her disappearance.
On February 14th 1988, the man driving this car was seen at a Sunset Beach service station the North Shore. He was in his vehicle at the time. Witnesses said they saw a child who matched Jie Zhao’s description in the backseat. Investigators believe it’s likely the child seen in the vehicle was in fact Jie Zhao. They are seeking these two men for questioning and continue to search for them.
Investigators speculate that Jie Zhao was taken by a stranger. There was once a lead that Jie Zhao has been taken out of Hawaii and into the United States by airplane and was left in San Diego, California upon arrival. Investigators looked into the tip and someone was sent to locate her but the lead went nowhere.
Her family continues to hold out hope that they will find Jie Zhao alive and well. Yan Ruan has kept the same phone number all these years in hopes that her daughter will try to contact her someday. She actively continues to search for her and advocates for her return.
In 1992, Yan Ruan became an official United States Citizen. Back then in China, families were only allowed a single child so since they already had an older daughter, Yan Ruan and her husband had to hide Jie Zhao and her younger sister until they moved to Hawaii. They emigrated to the United States in 1985.
The family moved to Hawaii in 1987. At the time of her disappearance, Jie Zhao attended school and Royal Elementary School in Honolulu in 1988. Her presumed abduction remains unsolved and the two men suspected in her case remain unidentified.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Honolulu Police Department 808-529-3115