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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 5, 2008

Husband in Hawaii murder-suicide had psychiatric, financial problems

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Michael James

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Grineline James

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Michael James Jr

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A Mililani Mauka man who killed his wife and son this week before committing suicide suffered from a psychiatric condition that triggered the killings, police said.

Investigators made the determination based on a letter and notes found at the scene, police said.

Michael James, 43, hanged himself before noon Wednesday after killing his wife, Grineline "Elaine" James, 39, sometime last weekend. The couple's son, Michael James Jr., 7, was killed a few days after his mother.

Autopsies determined Grineline James died from asphyxia due to strangulation and her son died from asphyxia due to drowning. Blunt force trauma to the head was listed as "other significant injuries" for both victims, according to the city medical examiner's office.

Prescription drugs, a letter and notes found in the home at 95-1042 Mo'ohele St. indicate Michael James suffered from a psychiatric condition, police said. In the letter sent to friends and relatives, James mentioned "hearing voices" but not any other family-related or financial problems, police said.

Investigators believe the murders were directly related to his condition.

Wanda James, Michael James' sister, who lives on the Mainland, told KITV that her brother had struggled with bipolar disorder. She also said he gambled and had financial problems, according to the television report. Attempts to contact Wanda James yesterday were unsuccessful.

Before his death, James had written to St. John Apostle and Evangelist Church in Mililani asking the church to officiate at his family's funeral.

The Rev. Dong Min "Paul" Li, the parochial vicar at the church, yesterday said an envelope arrived at the church on Wednesday morning marked "very important." Inside, Li said, were the birth certificates and sacrament records for James, his wife and son.

Li said the letter was chilling because he had known James as a parishioner, remembering in particular his smile, and he realized that it had been written by James knowing he would die.

The church called police but authorities had already discovered the deaths through a separate note James had left in the mailbox that was found by a postal carrier.

Li said he also got a telephone call Wednesday from a woman he believes was a relative of James on the Mainland who had received a letter from James and feared something bad happened.

Over the past few days, Li said he has been telling other parishioners to pray for the family and to take steps to make sure something like this tragedy never happens again. "If anything happens in the family, do not hesitate to call" the church, he said yesterday.


James, who sold insurance, and his wife, who taught English as a second language at Farrington High School, were described by friends as a nice and friendly couple active in their son's education.

James worked from home and had registered two businesses with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs in April 2005 Benchmark Marketing Group and Benchmark Life Insurance & Annuity Consulting Group.

Hickam Federal Credit Union filed a lawsuit against James on June 20 seeking $10,870, according to court records, indicating that James may have had financial difficulties.

Derrick DePledge contributed to this report. Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser .com or 535-8181.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.