3 DEAD IN MILILANI
Family dies in apparent double murder, suicide by husband at Mililani home
Two murders and a suicide at a Mililani home yesterday add to what already is a record number of domestic violence deaths in Hawai'i — and the year is barely half over.
Yesterday's discovery of three bodies — a mother and son apparently murdered by the father, who then took his own life — marked the eighth, ninth and 10th deaths this year linked to domestic violence.
The family was identified by neighbors and public records as Michael James, 43, wife Grineline, 39, and son Michael Jr., 7. Michael James was an insurance broker who worked out of his home. Grineline taught English as a second language at Farrington High School.
Evidence indicates Grineline James was killed over the weekend and the child a few days later. Police suspect Michael James hanged himself.
Police were dispatched to the James residence at 95-1042 Mo'ohele Street about noon after receiving a 911 call, reportedly from a female postal carrier who found a note from Michael James in the mailbox.
The bodies were found on the second floor of the home.
Three of the six homicide cases this year have been murder-suicides, and another case claimed the life of a man who police said was intervening in a domestic dispute outside a bar.
"These are the highest numbers we've experienced in at least a decade," said Carol Lee, executive director of the Hawai'i State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In 2007, Hawai'i had six domestic-violence murders, according to coalition data.
From 1996 through 2006, Hawai'i averaged about nine domestic violence-related murders a year, according to data from the state Attorney General's office. The peak was in 2000, when 15 homicides were recorded, the state figures show.
The numbers this year underscore that Hawai'i, as a community, is falling short of dealing with domestic violence, Lee and others say.
"I don't think there's any explanation for it other than we just haven't done enough to stop it, to intervene, to hold perpetrators accountable, to provide enough services for women to leave abusive relationships," Lee said. "We're just not doing a good enough job."
IT CAN STRIKE ANYWHERE
The discovery of the three bodies yesterday came in a Mililani Mauka community where upscale homes are on the market for upward of $1 million. One resident said the neighborhood was not the type where such crimes were expected to happen.
But Nanci Kreidman, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center, said the deaths illustrate that domestic violence knows no boundaries and can occur in any community, rich or poor.
"These are very crucial reminders that this is happening to all of us," Kreidman said. "It underscores the importance of us continuing to invest and commit resources to ending violence. Otherwise, people get complacent."
Lee said some people might cite Hawai'i's slowing economy to try to explain the spate of murders, but she doesn't believe such an explanation is relevant.
Police Department spokesman Maj. Frank Fujii said that there was more than one note found in the James home yesterday, but he did not describe them as suicide notes.
Neighbors described Michael James as extra friendly. Several said he was the only resident to come over and welcome them to the new neighborhood when they first arrived.
One such person, Donna Carter, who lived across the street from the James house, said it was difficult to reconcile what had happened to the man who always had time to smile and wave hello.
"This is such a shock because he was such a friendly, outgoing person," she said. "Once he got a chance to know you he would wave, and stop and talk. In fact my children — one's 14 and one's 16 — would go over and play basketball with little Mikey. He was about 7 years old."
Carter said the quiet neighborhood with its new homes was not only the last place anyone would expect a double murder and suicide, but that the James family was "the last people you would expect this to happen to."
"They appeared outwardly to be very happy. He really loved his son — that's why this is so strange."
Still, Carter, like some other neighbors, described the James family as quiet and mostly staying to themselves.
Even those in the neighborhood who didn't know the James family, recalled Michael James as personable.
"Nice guy," said Mike Tory, who lives around the corner and down the street from the James house. "I always wave and he waves back."
Tory said he hurried home yesterday afternoon when his daughter called to say authorities had barricaded Mo'ohele Street and police squad cars and news crews were stationed up and down the street.
"I am so shocked right now," said Tory, after he learned from bystanders about the killings and the suicide. "When I heard what happened, a cold chill went through my body. Nothing is so bad that you kill your wife and child."
Tory was at a loss as to how he would tell his three children about the deaths.
"I don't think they know," he said. "I going to tell my wife first, and then sit the kids down. I just cannot believe something like this would happen in this area."
HOW TO TELL THE KEIKI
Other residents were also concerned about how their children would react to the tragedy. A woman who lives two doors down said her 7-year-old daughter used to play in the yard with Michael James Jr. She said her daughter was staying with her parents and didn't know that her playmate had been murdered.
The woman declined to give her name.
A woman who lived directly across the street from from the James house and would not give her name said she wept when she heard the news. She said she and the James family moved into the neighborhood around the same time.
"You know, the father and the son would always play together with the basketball, and ride bikes," she said. "They were a nice family, and there was no indication that they had any problems."
Neighbors said they never heard the family argue, and most couldn't imagine what had caused Michael James to kill his wife and son, and then take his own life. Some wondered if the family might have been having financial problems.
But yesterday, in Mililani Mauka, the tragedy at 95-1042 Mo'ohele St. remained a mystery.