The Record-Unsolved McDonald Case

Remember this case of 44 years ago this month? Probably not.

The disappearance of Robert “Robby” McDonald, 22, of Pupukea, who was suspected of being the victim in a drug deal gone bad.

It may be our most long-time unsolved case of a  Hawaii person detectives said is presumed to be dead.

He had told people he was going to meet two men and collect a substantial amount of money from them.

Then nothing. And not to this day. No body or remains of one. No confessions. No murder evidence good enough for charges and a criminal trial.

Circuit Court judge Hiroshi Kato said he was convinced by what he called clear evidence that McDonald died “an unnatural and violent death.” But who caused it?  Rewards were offered. Nothing new came in.

Then an oddity. Attorney David Robinson was hired to sue in civil court on behalf of McDonald’s parents, claiming “wrongful death” caused by a known person.

A civil case demands less evidence than a criminal case. Remember the O.J. Simpson case? Acquitted of murder but found guilty of wrongful death in civil court and hit with a huge monetary penalty.

The defendant in Robinson’s lawsuit was Alexander “Alika’ Dowsett of the prominent Dowsett missionary and cattle ranching family. There are criss-crossing Dowsett and Alika avenues in Nuuanu. 

File 1977 TV Photo. Alika Dowsett tells of his truck being stolen on the North Shore during a crime wave.

But long before any trial might have disclosed any telling details, the Dowsett Sr. family agreed to pay the McDonalds from their (the Dowsetts) homeowners’ insurance policy. How a homeowner’s policy could be used for something not alleged have happened at the home is still a mystery to people connected to the long investigation. But that’s what happened.

The case remains cold today. Alika Dowsett is alive and lives on Oahu. The last posting by WebSleuths, an online organization dedicated to helping revive cold missing persons and murder cases, contains only this information:


Date of Last Contact May 20, 1976

NamUs Case Created August 19, 2018

Last Known Location

Location Sunset, Hawaii 96712

Honolulu County

Circumstances of Disappearance 

Robert McDonald was last seen leaving his residence on May 20, 1976 in his vehicle. McDonald related to his roommate at the time that he was going to visit a friend. Rumors surfaced that McDonald was possibly murdered by two acquaintances over drugs. 


1970 Toyota Truck

Style Pickup

Color Burgundy/Maroon

License Plate 534-194

Comments: Vehicle recovered abandoned on May 25, 1976 in the parking lot of Swanzey Beach Park. 

Anybody out there know anything new? I’m all ears.

It’s always a shame when a family knows no closure, just the unsettled fate of a family member.

There’s no statute of limitation on a murder prosecution.

Justice in this case simply requires one good act of conscience.

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

2 replies on “The Record-Unsolved McDonald Case”

  1. And what happened to Boogie Porter? Drugs took too many of my friends even the ones who are still here . . .

  2. Robbie was my best friend growing up in Ewa Beach. When he moved to the North Shore, so did I. We surfed and road dirt bikes together and spent much of our time together. Rob’s mom and dad were like my 2nd parents, not only to me, but to a lot of Robby’s close friends. Reading this and bringing back the memories of 44 years ago choked me up. Me and other friends spend most of our time hunting around for Robby in those days and weeks following his disappearance hoping to find him alive somewhere. Hiking the mountains in the area we were convinced he had “disappeared”. Searching beach parks and side roads and following up with reports of people who thought the saw him after seeing posters, the same poster you used in this article, and that we pinned up all over the island; shopping centers, telephone poles, UH, etc. I was 21 years old at the time. I’m 65 now. I’ve never stopped missing Robby. And after reading this article it brings it all back like it yesterday. I was in close touch with Rob’s mom and dad until their dying days. Their pain was one of the saddest thing I have ever lived though. As unlikely as it seems, I pray that justice will be served someday and his remains are found so we can put him to rest properly. That’s all his mom and dad ever wanted after it became obvious that he wouldn’t be found alive.

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