|Sunday, September 15
Updated: September 16, 12:23 PM ET
Witnesses say Dele's brother brought boat in alone
ESPN.com news services
FBI investigators and French police have gathered on the island of Tahiti, possibly on the verge of opening a formal murder investigation into the disappearance of former NBA player Bison Dele and two others, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
The chief suspect at this time is Dele's brother, Miles Dabord, who witnesses have said left New Zealand on a sailboat with Dele, Dele's girlfriend Serena Karlan, and the boat's captain, Bertrand Saldo. Witnesses also have said, according to the Times, that a person fitting Dabord's description brought the boat into Tahiti alone.
Dabord already is being sought in Mexico on an unlawful flight warrant issued by the FBI bureau in Phoenix, where he is suspected of trying to steal his brother's identity. Mexican police, under the direction of the FBI, located a hotel room in Tijuana last week with personal items belonging to Dabord.
The FBI and the French police are expected to do a formal search of the boat, a 55-foot catamaran, sometime Monday. The boat, which Dele named the Hakuna Matata, was found docked in the Tahitian town of Taravao on Thursday. No one was on board, but the boat had been repainted and renamed Arabella, according to Andrew Black of the San Francisco office of the FBI.
Meanwhile, Scott and Gale Ohlgren, the parents of Karlan, spoke to ABC's "Good Morning America" from their home in Longmont, Colo., Monday morning. Gale Ohlgren said her daughter left a message on an answering machine saying it was sometimes hard to make contact while the three were traveling from Tahiti to Hawaii, but that she was fine.
Gale Ohlgren said she became increasingly concerned during August when she hadn't heard from her daughter.
A French police official told the Times that a public prosecutor in Tahiti is expected to declare an open murder investigation by Monday. The official said his office has gathered "plenty" of information from 20 witnesses to forward suspicions that Dabord was involved in the disappearances.
According to the newspaper's story, several witnesses in Taravao reported seeing a man they have identified as the 6-foot-8, 270-pound Dabord stepping alone off the boat before registering it. The official said the man believed to be the 35-year-old Dabord, formerly known as Kevin Eugene Williams, signed the registration slip with an alias that was not either of his two names or that of Dele, 33, or his former name, Brian Williams.
Two Tahitian residents told the French police they drove Dabord 60 miles from Taravao so he could board an airplane departing Papeete, Tahiti, on July 20, the police official told the Times.
The police official told the Times there were no signs of foul play, bloodstains or damage, seen by inspecting the boat from the dock.
He also said he would be surprised if any bodies are found on the boat.
"My personal opinion is that the bodies are in the sea," the official told the Times. "The waters off our coast are very deep -- planes have crashed and remain missing -- so if the bodies have been (dumped) it will be impossible to find them."
Police in Phoenix detained Dabord on Sept. 5 after he allegedly said he was Brian Williams and signed receipts with that name while trying to buy $152,000 in gold. He showed his younger brother's passport as identification before he was taken into custody by police, Black, of the FBI's San Francisco office, said. Dabord then was released without being arrested, which was before it was known that Dele was missing.
Dele, a member of the Chicago Bulls' NBA championship team in 1997, changed his name in 1998 to honor his American Indian ancestry. Dele played in the NBA for nearly eight years with Orlando, Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago and Detroit, averaging 11.0 points and 6.2 rebounds in 413 regular-season games. He last played in 1999 with the Pistons.
Patricia Phillips, the mother of Dabord and Dele, told the Chicago Tribune she had received anguished calls from Dabord on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.
In those calls, Phillips told the Tribune, "(Dabord) said, 'Mom, I just need you to believe me. I wouldn't hurt my brother. I need to know that you love me before I die. I can't go to prison. You know my personality is the type that I can't survive in prison. Nobody will believe my story.' "
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.