A honeymoon in paradise turned into unimaginable heartbreak

Love & tragedy

For Jeffanie Rantung-Kramar, what was supposed to be a honeymoon in paradise turned into unimaginable heartbreak

| Published:
Photo by Lisa Helfert

They almost didn’t make it to Hawaii for their honeymoon. Stephen Kramar and his new wife, Jeffanie Rantung-Kramar, missed their early flight out of BWI that rainy Sunday morning in September 2018 because the driver of their shuttle bus to the airport got lost. Then a ticketing agent scrambled to book them on another plane to Los Angeles so they could make their connecting flight to Honolulu en route to the island of
Molokai. They probably would’ve missed the first leg of that trip, too, had the flight not been delayed two hours.

But none of that mattered to the newlyweds once their nine-seater plane touched down in Molokai. Even before they left the small airport, Stephen had a smile on his face, pleased by the sunshine and the hassle-free car rental—no agent, just an email directing them to the key under the driver’s mat of their
Toyota Echo.

“I’m so glad we picked this island,” he told Jeffanie as he got behind the wheel.

Molokai’s low-key vibe suited Stephen, who wasn’t a fan of crowded cities or tourist traps. He wanted a honeymoon spot off the beaten path. Sparsely populated Molokai, at the center of the eight islands that make up the main Hawaiian chain, fit the bill. No upscale restaurants or fancy shops, not even a traffic light or a high-rise building. For a week, they stayed at the island’s only hotel, located on the south shore. The couple walked the beaches, explored the town, and on rainy days hung out in their room watching movies or Stephen’s favorite skateboarding videos. At the local post office, known for its “Post-a-Nut” service, they decorated a coconut and mailed it to Stephen’s parents in lieu of a postcard to thank them for helping bankroll the trip.

Courtesy photo

Stephen and Jeffanie moved to the more verdant east end of the island for the second week of their honeymoon, settled into a rented condominium at the Wavecrest Resort, and resolved to hike the nearby mountains. But first, Stephen wanted them to scout potential routes together with the hopes of finding one that wouldn’t be too challenging for Jeffanie, who had collapsed from dehydration the previous week on a local trail. While hiking was not her thing, Stephen was an avid backpacker who once summited a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado. That Monday morning, Sept. 17, he woke up raring to go, but after a restless night’s sleep, Jeffanie wasn’t up for it.

“He said, ‘We’re on our honeymoon, so I’d rather spend time with you,’ ” Jeffanie recalls. “He was so sweet, but I knew he really wanted to go. He’s outdoorsy, and he can’t sit still. We kept going back and forth. Finally he said: ‘Yeah, I do want to go.’ So I said, ‘You should go.’ He loved hiking.”

Stephen left around 9:30 a.m. with his cellphone and a large bottle of water. About 30 minutes into his trek, he texted Jeffanie to say that cell reception was bad. Two hours later, around noon, he called to tell her that he thought he could see their condo from where he was. She picked up the binoculars and scanned the mountains from the balcony, but couldn’t spot him. At that point, she thought he was heading back. Then she heard from him again at 2:24 p.m.

“Travel is slow,” the text read. “But I’m on my way still”

“take ur time n be safe,” she replied. But by sunset, no Stephen. Perhaps he took a longer route home, she thought. She called him, no answer. Over the next hour or so she kept dialing his number until the calls started going straight to voicemail. She contacted the police around 9 p.m. and kept texting her husband.

“where r u,” she wrote. “i’m starting to worry”

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