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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Police seek clues in fatal Hawai'i Kai house fire

By Peter Boylan and Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writers

The day after a woman and her two children were found dead in a burning bedroom at a Hawai'i Kai home, police and fire officials yesterday were still trying to piece together what happened.

But a police source who asked not to be identified because the investigation is ongoing indicated that a suicide note was found at the Lunalilo Home Road residence.

Found dead were Joanna Miranda, 40, and her daughters Channell, 4, and Jasmine, 7.

Friends, neighbors and former classmates painted a picture of the Miranda family as close-knit and caring. The two daughters, who took dance lessons at a Kaimuki studio, were described as cute with dark, curly hair.

But they also said Joanna had recently seen doctors over an inner-ear problem that resulted in acute hearing loss in one ear as well as repeated attacks of vertigo and dizziness.

They said she was an active and strong parent but seemed depressed over her recent hearing loss.

Dorothy Burger, who never met Joanna Miranda in person but had spoken to her a couple of times on the telephone, said Joanna was struggling with questions about how to handle the ear problem, called Meniere's disease. Burger also suffers from the disease.

Lab results pending

Police are awaiting lab results from evidence taken from the scene of Monday's fire to determine what caused the blaze and where it started. Autopsy findings have been deferred until at least today, according to the medical examiner's office and Honolulu Police homicide Lt. David Kamai.

Fire investigators did not take any evidence from the scene and are awaiting the results of the police tests, said HFD Capt. Emmit Kane.

Friends and acquaintances reached out to the family with offers of food and support. But the family closed ranks around Joanna's husband and the girls' father, Kaiser High School alumnus Wendell Miranda, who was too stunned to talk about the deaths, said Mary Osorio.

Osorio, who considered herself a friend of Joanna's, said she talked with Wendell Miranda and he asked her to tell everyone that Joanna was a "wonderful person and devoted mother."

Osorio — previously the coordinator of The Baby Hui, a nonprofit parent support group of which Joanna was a part — said Wendell Miranda also asked for the community's understanding.

"I just really hope the community will have respect for the family at this time of need," Osorio said. "I pray for them."

Yesterday, a makeshift memorial consisting of a pink bucket of fresh flowers and a lei sat in the driveway at 1038 Lunalilo Home Road. Boarded-up windows were the only other sign that a tragedy had occurred.

Father helps coach team

The 6:30 a.m. fire was concentrated in the master bedroom, and that's where the three victims were found, between a mattress and dresser, Lt. Kamai said on Monday. Damages to the house and its contents were estimated at $50,000, fire officials said yesterday.

The couple moved into the home four months ago, in a community where Wendell had lived as a teenager. He was a star football and basketball player at Kaiser, said Bryan Almadova, who coaches there.

"Wendell was an assistant junior varsity and varsity coach with me for the past six or seven years," Almadova said. "He's a great guy. This is so tragic. He was just starting to get his kids involved with organized sports."

According to police records, Joanna Miranda was reported missing last October by her husband but the case was never investigated because she was located the same day.

Advertiser Staff Writer Rod Ohira contributed to this report. Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-8831, or Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8110.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Mary Osorio's position with The Baby Hui.