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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

'Aiea gun slayer ended his own troubled life

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kenny Akira Tanaka appeared to have led a turbulent life that included trouble with the law and financial problems before it all ended with his shooting his girlfriend, killing her mother and committing suicide.

Police said yesterday that they expect Naomi Noguchi, 45, to live to tell why Tanaka, 50, argued with her in an 'Aiea apartment Monday night, then shot her mother when she intervened, fired four bullets into Noguchi's upper torso, and then killed himself.

Noguchi remained in stable condition yesterday at The Queen's Medical Center after surgery.

The Honolulu medical examiner found that Tanaka killed himself, dying of a gunshot to the chest after killing his girlfriend's mother, Yang Suk Pak, 66.

Pak died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Noguchi's son, an 8-year-old who called for help after seeing his grandmother shot and finding the bleeding bodies of Noguchi and Tanaka in a bedroom, was with family members yesterday.

Police said Noguchi had moved to Hawai'i three years ago from South Korea with her son and mother. Tanaka was the former owner of Wahiawa Auto Parts.

In 1993, an audit at his workplace revealed Tanaka had stolen more than $60,000 in auto parts, and he was ultimately charged with stealing from the Pearl City NAPA store from May 1989 to September 1990.

According to police reports attached to the court file, Tanaka took costly equipment such as air-conditioning refrigerant recycling machines and welding machines and sold them at huge discounts and on a cash-only basis to service stations and auto repair shops.

After pleading no contest to first-degree theft charges, he was ordered to repay $22,000 in restitution to the Schuman Automotive company, which operated the NAPA auto parts stores on O'ahu.

Tanaka got into more trouble in 1995, when he was arrested by Honolulu police on a misdemeanor for impersonating a public servant. The judge suspended a $100 fine.

Less than a year later, he was arrested again, this time on second-degree theft charges. In his sentencing in July 1996, he was ordered to pay $590 in restitution and serve five years probation.

Born in Honolulu in 1952, Tanaka was married twice, first to the mother of his son, now 25, and then in 1984 to the mother of his daughter, now 16.

Court records indicate that at the time his second wife filed for divorce in October 1999, Tanaka was owner-manager of Wahiawa Auto Parts with an income of about $2,300 a month, less than half of what she was making as an optometrist. His debts for credit cards and personal loans totaled approximately $143,000, according to court records. The divorce became final Sept. 11, 2001.

Tanaka also owed more than $150,000 on his auto parts store and had a mortgage balance of about $245,000 on his Mililani home, the records show.

Salesman Kenneth "KO" Okimura, who sold auto parts to Tanaka's business at Wahiawa Mall for two years, said Tanaka met Noguchi on the Internet, possibly in January of this year. "Around March, they were talking about opening a small restaurant in Hale'iwa," Okimura said. "I don't know what happened to that."

Okimura said he was forced to cancel Tanaka's business account because of delinquent bill payments. "He had a lot of internal problems because he wasn't putting anything back into the business and didn't spend much time there," Okimura noted.

Tanaka was trying to remain in the house at 94-497 Lehuakona St. in Mililani, which he had shared with his wife and where he later lived with Noguchi.

Tanaka was failing to pay half the mortgage as promised in his divorce decree, and last month the court ordered that the property be sold.

Tanaka was also having problems at work.

Property manager Lianne Kitajima of Properties West said Tanaka was not paying his lease rent at the auto parts store and had to close the business in July.

"He was really struggling, especially after 9/11 when all the military got deployed because he sold a lot of parts to them," she said. "I guess it just snowballed."

On Sunday, Noguchi and her family moved into the apartment at 99-315 Honohono St. in 'Aiea. Police said it wasn't clear whether Tanaka moved with them.

But it was in the kitchen of the three-bedroom 'Aiea apartment at about 9 p.m. Monday that Tanaka got into a heated argument with Noguchi, police said.

When her mother tried to intervene, police said, Tanaka shot the mother. Her body was found in a hallway at the top of the stairs of the second-floor unit. Tanaka then apparently forced Noguchi into the right rear bedroom, where he shot her before taking his own life, police said. A .25-caliber handgun was found near his body.

Autopsy results show that Tanaka didn't kill himself with his first shot, which pierced his neck. He managed, afterward, to hold the handgun to his heart and fire, police said.

Advertiser staff writers Rod Ohira, Mike Gordon, Curtis Lum and David Waite contributed to this report.