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Dele's Brother Sought by FBI

Pro basketball: Mother worried about her sons after disappearance of former NBA player.

September 12, 2002|LANCE PUGMIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What Patricia Phillips loves most about her Santa Monica apartment is the tranquillity--the ocean breeze sailing through her open windows, the quiet that allows for her morning meditations interrupted only by the comforting rings of a wind chime.

But her peacefulness was on hold Wednesday.

Telephone calls came streaming in, and with each ring, Phillips either rose wearily to check the caller ID on her home line--or scrambled to answer her cell phone.

"I need to get the cell," Phillips said. "That's the number Miles has called both times."

Miles Dabord, also known as Kevin Eugene Williams, is Phillips' 35-year-old son and the older brother of former NBA player Bison Dele.

Dele, 33, who was known as Brian Williams when he played at Santa Monica St. Monica High and later with the Clippers and the 1996-97 NBA champion Chicago Bulls, is missing somewhere in the South Pacific.

So is his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, and Bertrand Saldo, the captain of Dele's 55-foot catamaran, the "Hakuna Matata."

Law officials presume they are dead, and they would like to speak with Dabord to find out what he knows.

Phillips said both of her sons were sailing together with Karlan for six months until early July. Karlan called her mother on July 7. Neither Dele nor Karlan have established contact with any of their family members or friends on the mainland since. Friends say they were last seen alive on the French Polynesian island of Moorea, a 51-square-mile haven that features a Club Med location, multi-hued lagoons, white-sand beaches and jagged, picturesque mountains.

Dabord placed a cell phone call to Phillips once Tuesday night, and again Wednesday morning. In both brief conversations, he threatened suicide.

Phillips quoted her son saying, "Ma, I know the police are looking for me. Nobody will believe my story. I just want you to believe me. I just wanted to call you before I take care of myself. Mom, I didn't do it."

Said Phillips: "He called me and told me he wanted me to know he didn't do this thing he was being accused of. He said how important it was for him to know that I believed him, and that I loved him, because he was at the end of his life."

Although Phillips declined to disclose all details of her talks with Dabord, Scott Ohlgren, Karlan's stepfather, said he was told Dabord referenced a physical struggle he had with Dele sometime during the trip.

"Miles told her essentially nothing," Ohlgren said. "How's that for an alarm?"

Dabord was picked up and questioned by Phoenix police Sept. 5 after attempting to purchase gold from an establishment, Certified Mint, by signing "Brian Williams" on a check for $152,000 from his younger brother's account. He used Brian Williams' passport as identification. Police did not arrest Dabord, citing "lack of information." Kevin Porter, Dele's personal assistant, told Phillips he accompanied Dabord to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix and watched him purchase a plane ticket to San Jose.

Along with the conversations she had with Dabord, Phillips received more news Wednesday. The FBI announced an active missing persons investigation to determine what has become of Dele, Karlan and Saldo.

Andrew Black, a spokesman from the bureau's San Francisco office that will serve as the base of the investigation, said officials are in the process of interviewing those with information about the disappearance.

"We are very much interested in talking to Kevin Eugene Williams [Dabord] about this matter," Black said.

Said Ohlgren: "I'm so grateful they're looking for him [Dabord]. I've got a feeling the FBI has a pretty long arm, and they'll be able to solve this."

Black would not comment on Dabord's whereabouts, although sources close to the matter said the FBI has information that Dabord drove to San Diego this week and ventured across the border to Tijuana. He is also believed to have told his side of the story to an attorney friend, providing a stipulation that the attorney can divulge the details if Dabord commits suicide.

Dwight Manley, Dele's agent, said he has tried to arrange for a criminal attorney, John Barnett, to represent Dabord.

"I don't think we have long to wait," Phillips said. "Miles will either take his life or he'll come in."

The "Hakuna Matata" and its occupants remain missing, Black said. The FBI has contacted the U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Control Center in Honolulu, Black said.

"We conducted a search by phone with other centers, and that search has been suspended," Chief Petty Officer Joseph Curcio of the Honolulu Rescue Control Center said Wednesday. "If we get a request to search again, we will run it up the chain. Until we get some kind of manageable search area, all we can do is put out the word to other RCCs. A specific area would allow us to do more, starting with messages to ships at sea."

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