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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Kaua'i murders remain unsolved

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser KauaÎi Bureau

WAIMEA, Kaua'i — A year after the murders of two women and a violent attack on another woman, an undercurrent of tension clutches a West Kaua'i community that is superficially back to normal.

"The violence that occurred was so horrendous, so ugly. We can never go back to being naive," said Nancy Peterson, director of family violence programs for the YWCA of Kaua'i.

She fears that after seven months without further attacks, women may drift back into risky behaviors such as jogging alone on the beach or remaining alone or in unfamiliar company after dark. Before the killings no one would have thought those behaviors dangerous.

"It's difficult, because it's been out of the news," Peterson said. "People want to be in denial. My sense is that's where most of us are."

Deputy Kaua'i Police Chief Wilfred Ihu, who headed the department's Waimea station during the period when the attacks took place, said that even today, he makes a point of stopping and talking to women he sees walking or running alone late in the day.

The body of the first victim, 38-year-old Lisa Bissell, was found along a cane field road near Polihale.

Bissell had last been seen the day before, April 6, 2000, hitchhiking.

Today, the investigation of her death remains "a major, major priority for us," Police Chief George Freitas said.

A month and a half later, on May 22, a 52-year-old woman tending a yard at a waterfront residence in Kekaha was brutally beaten and may have been left for dead.

She gave police a description, which was converted into an artist's rendering that has been prominently displayed around the island.

On Aug. 30, a surfer found the body of Daren R. Singer, 43, a Maui jewelry maker who had been surfing and collecting shells on Kaua'i, and was camping alone near the Pakala surf spot.

Each case involved beating, stabbing and some elements of sexual assault.

"It is possible this is not a serial murder case, but it's hard for me to imagine that three women who appear to be in approximately the same age group, who have other similarities, all within 10 miles of each other — it's hard for me to believe it's not," Freitas said.

Police had hopes that the testing of genetic material collected at the site — presumably semen and perhaps other material — would help them identify a suspect. Detective Melvin Morris would not comment on the evidence, but said it was fair to assume that since no arrest has been made, the DNA tests have not resulted in a conclusive identification.

Morris said other crime scene materials, which he would not characterize, are still being tested in hopes of moving the investigation forward. Freitas said the department has several possible suspects, but has been unable to directly link any to the attacks.

Meanwhile, authorities say they can't explain the lack of attacks since last August.

"If in fact this is a serial case, has this person moved on? Has this person become deceased? Is this person in jail? I don't know," he said.