Saturday, September 27, 2008

KPD Blue: Chapter 8 : The Serial Kiler


By Anthony Sommer

Chapter 8 : The Serial Kiler

In the spring and summer of 2000 on Kauai’s west side, three white women were stabbed and sexually assaulted. Two died. The third was left for dead and so severely injured that it took her three hours to crawl to a telephone only a few yards away and call for help.

It was the first time in recorded history that Kauai had a serial killer on the island.

KPD detectives quickly identified a prime suspect but insisted they could never gather enough evidence to arrest or charge him.

The suspect’s brother was a veteran KPD officer. Property crime and assaults are common but murder is very rare on Kauai. Until the series of killings of women on the west side, there had not been a homicide on Kauai for almost three years.

No detectives on the KPD are designated or trained to investigate murder.

The fact is, in every area of police work, the KPD lacks sophistication in both training and experience.

The KPD runs its own police academy. Many states have a central police academy, usually run by the state police, to provide uniform training to officers from rural departments, but not Hawaii. The popular television series “Hawaii Five-0” is about a state police force that never existed.

The Honolulu Police Department has offered to train “neighbor island” police officers for a set price but Kauai has chosen to remain the “Separate Kingdom” in its police department as in all things governmental.

The primary purpose of the KPD Police Academy is to train new officers in the cultural and political aspects of police work on Kauai, not in law enforcement skills.

The instructors at the KPD Police Academy all are KPD officers. “The blind leading the blind” is an apt description: Poorly trained, unskilled officers teaching raw recruits. The KPD does send its officers to off-island training courses but there is no guarantee they will attend the classes.

For example, a group of officers recently sent to Maui to be trained in narcotics investigation didn’t show up for a single class. They treated the trip as a taxpayer-funded vacation and drinking binge.

So when a major crime occurs on Kauai and there are no obvious suspects, the handling of the cases by the KPD is somewhat less than the stuff of great detective fiction. If a suspect is a friend or a relative of any KPD officer, the investigation becomes even more like the farcical plot of an Inspector Clouseau movie.

The West Side of Kauai is the most traditional area of the island. It is on the leeward, or kona in Hawaiian, side. Mount Waialeale, termed the spot with the most rainfall on the planet, blocks the trade winds carrying in moisture from the sea to the northeast.

The West side is dry, dusty (red dust from the volcanic soil) and in the summer very hot.

One of two remaining sugar plantations (the other is on Maui) in Hawaii grips the west side of Kauai firmly in the past.

Life is simple. Communities are strong. Native Hawaiians gather salt from an ancient lava field near the surf line. Even the students at Waimea High School are polite to their elders.

On April 7, 2000, the battered body of Lisa Bissell, 38, was found in a roadside ditch near Polihale State Park on Kauai’s west side. Polihale is one of Hawaii’s most spectacular beaches connected to the rest of Kauai by a web of haul cane roads winding through old sugar cane fields.

Bissell technically lived in Hanapepe where she had a post office box but she was considered a harmless and homeless street person frequently seen in many different towns on the West Shore.

Some of Bissell’s belongings were found in a street in Waimea, indicating she had been abducted there. She was raped, beaten, stabbed. Police said the cause of her death was that her throat had been cut.

Police found an abandoned, bloodstained car. Their theory was Lisa Bissell was killed in one location and her body dumped at Polihale.

On May 22, 2000, a 52-year-old haole woman was beaten and stabbed in the yard of a remote Kekaha beach home where she was house-sitting.

The woman never has been identified in the media, although she was well known on Kauai.

Late one night, a year and a half after she was attacked, she called a newspaper reporter at home and gave the only interview she ever has given. A mutual friend convinced her the reporter was trustworthy.

The woman said she was working in the yard of a home she was maintaining for an absentee owner. The house was isolated and right on the beach on the west end of Kekaha. She said a man walked up to her and said, “My name is John and I’m homeless.”

She suggested he go to a house down the beach where the owners often let transients camp on their property. She turned and went back to work. The man picked her up from behind and took her behind the house where he beat her, breaking one of her arms.

She said he pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the chest but the blade hit her sternum and was bent. The man cursed and threw the knife into some bushes.

She said she believes the only reason her throat was not cut like the two victims who died was that the knife was bent and discarded.

Afterward, she went to the mainland and lived with her family while she recovered.

Months later, KPD flew her to Oahu—not Kauai—where she was shown a lineup. She was able to eliminate two of the men in the lineup but her retinas were detached when she
was beaten and her eyesight never was fully restored. She was not able to pick a suspect from the remaining men. The third victim was found on Aug. 30, 2000, at her camp site near Pakala Point Beach, a popular surfing spot. She was identified as Daren Singer, 43, of Paia, Maui. Paia is a hippie community, much given to alternative lifestyles.

Like the others, she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed. Police said her face was beaten beyond recognition and her throat had been cut.

In each of the three investigations, the first patrol officers on the scene thoroughly contaminated the crime scene by tramping all over any tracks and touching physical evidence.

One of the first things taught in most police academies is that the primary duty of a uniformed officer arriving at a crime scene is to secure the area and protect the evidence so the police technicians will be dealing with an uncontaminated crime scene.

That class apparently is not taught at the KPD Police Academy.

A forensic team flown over from the Honolulu Police Department had almost nothing to work with. DNA evidence, at best, proved “inconclusive.”

The KPD had a contract with a mainland lab to conduct DNA testing of evidence. But they went with a lowest bidder that was taking several months to provide results.

It isn’t as though the KPD detectives didn’t care. If anything, they cared too much. The problem was lack of skills and training and resources.

“One of my biggest concerns when I took this job was the possibility of a serial criminal, a murderer, or a rapist and whether we were equipped to deal with that,” said KPD Chief of detectives Lt. Bill Ching, a second-generation Kauai police officer.

“I’ve seen the resources and manpower serial crimes require and the record-keeping alone is a gigantic task.” Ching’s newspaper interview was in itself remarkable. KPD officers in general are not open with the press. Not just because they’re cops but also because they’re local, and locals don’t often share their feelings with haole reporters.

The disappointment of West Side residents in their police department had become both obvious and acute. West Side women repeatedly came into Ching’s office and yelled at him for not solving the crimes. Others kept calling him and asking when it would be safe to take walks alone again.

Ching, who has lived his entire life on the West Side, said he and his 10 detectives were taking their inability to arrest anyone very personally. The detectives worked themselves to states of near exhaustion, and many couldn’t sleep when they did go home.

“It’s hard to step back when some of the people involved are people you’ve known all your life,” Ching noted. Chief George Freitas attempted to take some of the load off of Ching by forbidding Ching to attend public meetings on the west side with his friends and neighbors. Freitas said he would conduct the meetings.

Ching went to the meetings anyway.

“I told the chief that I didn’t want anyone else to have to answer the questions that I was supposed to answer andI went.

“Those community meetings are hard. I reminded people that this is real life, not a television series and nothing is going to be solved in the next hour.

“I had to exercise a lot of control so I didn’t give anyindication I believed the case was going to be solved in the next day or two, or any indication I believed the case is never going to be solved.

For similar reasons, Ching said he had taken to avoiding friends who are not police officers because they invariably asked him about the investigation.

“It’s really hard because I can’t say anything.” Ching said he was conducting regular debriefings both with his detectives and west side patrolmen that were as much therapy as police business.

“The first thing I do is let them expose their emotions— good feelings, negative feelings—I let them get it all out. Then we debrief the case itself.

“With these cases I keep reminding them we did everything right. We did everything we were supposed to do. But the waiting for a break is stressful.

“I have two young kids, both in elementary school, and I have to make sure I don’t go home and take out my frustrations on them or my wife,

“I was born on the West Side,” Ching said. “My mom had 17 brothers and sisters, so I have a lot of relatives holding me accountable for what we were doing. And I have a lot of detectives from the West Side. It’s very stressful.”

Despite beefed up police patrols and even police horse patrols (with borrowed horses; the KPD doesn’t own any) on the beaches, women on Kauai were thoroughly terrified. KPD and the island’s only gun store were deluged with telephone calls from frightened women wanting to buy pepper spray for self defense.

Pepper spray was the weapon the women wanted most but they couldn’t get it.

Kauai was the only county in Hawaii to require a permit to carry pepper spray and the ordnance covering it was passed by the County Council at the request of KPD to keep it out of the hands of criminals.

No store on the island stocked pepper spray and the police permit required to carry it required a 14-day waiting period for a criminal background check—the same requirement to buy a handgun.

“A lot of husbands and boyfriends are calling for their wives and significant others,” said Emily Fabro, who processed permits for the KPD.

“Personally, I think most women would be better off carrying pepper spray than the short-barrel shotguns they’ve been buying,” said Mike Rosa, co-owner of The Hunting Shop of Kauai.

There is no waiting period on Kauai for purchasing a shotgun. In light of the permit requirement for pepper spray, the logic appears a bit flawed.

Rosa said he didn’t carry pepper spray because of the permit requirement and the fact that it has a very short shelf life.

The only other permitted licensed pepper spray dealers were two Kauai police officers who also were licensed gun dealers and they didn’t stock it either.

It was a federal violation to ship pepper spray on an airline without declaring it, which appears to be exactly what many Kauaians did.

A thriving black market for the spray developed on Kauai and the demand was met by supplies smuggled in from the other counties where no permit was required.

On Kauai’s West Side, where the assaults took place, the three attacks were not something that some women would talk openly about.

“But it’s always behind our heads, especially if we go to the beaches or out of the way places, parks,” said a woman convenience store clerk in Kekaha. “We stay in groups and use the buddy system.”

None of the women ever worked alone without a male co-worker present in the store, which is open evenings, she said.

Billi Smith, the popular and charismatic principal of Kekaha Elementary School on Kauai’s West Side, said the school’s students had many questions and she and her teachers didn’t duck any of them.

Men who lived on the West Side were pondering it, too.

“When I’m working it doesn’t cross my mind,” said a Kauai firefighter.

“But when I go home and sit down and think about it, it really bothers me.

“Somewhere on this small island is someone who is very capable of very violent attacks on women and it’s probably someone many of us see every day.”

In early September, KPD detectives rounded up all 70 registered sex offenders on the island. They said they didn’t find any suspects but, of course, they had.

On Sept. 12, 2000, the KPD announced it had arrested a convicted rapist on a parole violation. The man’s name and mug shot were released through the mayor’s office.

The press release was almost instantly followed by another insisting the parole violator was in no way a suspect in the west side attacks and his only crime was violating the conditions of his parole.

The KPD was so vehement in pointing out that the man was not the serial killer, every editor in the state bought it. Except for one Honolulu television station, which used his name and broadcast his picture, all the “news executives” were frightened by the KPD’s threat of libel suits.

The next day, the KPD, through the mayor’s office criticized the lone television station that identified the arrested man for “irresponsible reporting.”

The television station was correct. It was the KPD that was lying. And the mayor’s office knew it but lying to the press was pretty much standard operating procedure. Next, Inspector Mel Morris, head of the investigations bureau, began dragging a red herring claiming, “KPD has not ruled out the possibility that there may be more than one person responsible.”

He said the man arrested is “unrelated to any of these cases. Any impression that might have been given that these cases are close to being solved is flat-out wrong.”

The arrested man was, of course, KPD’s primary, in fact only, suspect and (off the record, of course) they were certain he was the killer but they couldn’t prove it.

His name was Waldorf “Wally” Wilson, and his name and picture were all over the west side on anonymously printed flyers.

But the Honolulu media executives would not publish his name until two years later—and then only because Wilson filed a lawsuit against KPD, a newspaper and a magazine.

Wilson was convicted in 1983 of a brutal rape on Oahu. He was paroled on Jan. 9, 1999 and in January 2000 moved to Kauai. The attacks began three months later.

Wally Wilson’s brother was a KPD officer, Buddy Wilson, a long-time member of the Vice Squad known for his somewhat less than subtle tactics in investigating narcotics cases.

(Once again the circle that began with the Randy Machado trial looped back. Kelly Lau was a witness for Machado at his trial. Lau indicated quite clearly she was a confidential informant working for Buddy Wilson.)

All the while, KPD insisted Wally Wilson was not a suspect. For the next two years, the KPD engaged in tactics that Wally Wilson later claimed in his lawsuit violated his Constitutional rights.

But he was kept off the streets without ever actually being charged with any crime.

And there were no more attacks.

According to Wally Wilson’s lawsuit, KPD “coerced” him into taking a polygraph test on Sept. 12, 2000 and then “strongly pressured” the Hawaii Parole Authority to revoke Wilson’s parole. The results of the polygraph test were not given in the lawsuit.

A judge ultimately threw out Wilson’s lawsuit but by then KPD’s tactics were pretty obvious, as was its complete inability (or unwillingness) to bring criminal charges against him involving the three attacks.

Initially, Wilson’s parole was rescinded because he had been in contact with a woman on Kauai that his parole conditions specifically directed him to avoid. The revocation lasted until Feb. 28, 2002, when he was set free. On June 15, 2002, Wilson was again sent back to prison for violating his parole by failing a polygraph test.

To this day, KPD never has stated Wilson was a suspect at all in the West Side attacks. Yet every time he was released, his parole was violated on one technicality or another, and he was sent back to prison.

The problem is, Wilson has now “maxed out,” served the full term for his earlier conviction, and is back on the street. Since he no longer is on parole, he can’t be hauled in for parole violations.

The case of the one and only serial killer in Kauai’s history remains unsolved.

c2008 Anthony Sommer


Katy said...

why is it important to this story that the victims were white? Does Summer believe that the case would have been handled differently if they were women of color?

Augustus John said...

Mr. Sommers:

I was reading your web - blog this afternoon because a friend of mine called to say that there was an entry about a Kauai serial killer. I have been saying that there was a serial rapist on Kauai for a number of years before the spate of 3 assaults/murders, but it wasn't until I saw the TV episode of America's Most Wanted that I was made aware that this had not been solved. My experience, or general knowledge of it being dangerous for Haole women in Kauai stems from a friend of a friend that was attacked on Kauai in the mid-90's - let's call her Sara. I believe it was before the first of the three women were attacked. Sara flew over to Kauai to have a job interview - and stayed overnight - she went to a bar close to her hotel and had too much to drink. When she was walking back to the hotel she was asked by a man in a pick-up truck(I think it was this type of vehicle) if she wanted a ride. She got into the car - but never made it to her hotel. The man took her somewhere - beat her up - raped her - and left her for dead in the cane fields. I believe that this assault may have been the first attack of the serial rapist/killer.

Sara crawled up the side of the ditch into the road area and was picked up by an old Japanese farmer - and driven to the hospital. She had very serious physical wounds, though I do not know if she was stabbed. She had to have nursing care for about 6 months, in order to recover from her injuries. She was in terrible shape, and barely alive. Her complete convalescence took years and when I heard about it - she was going to the Honolulu Police department to get help because she believed that the Kauai PD knew who attacked her, and were not working her case properly. In fact she had been told something like; "it's your fault for drinking too much". Not the type of usual response one is supposed to give a rape a police officer.

Have you heard of such an assault in the mid-90's - 1995-96? My neighbor has family on Kauai and her sister is a nurse at Wilcox. When I was speaking to her just last week - she told me that her sister had told her about this assault. Has anyone tied earlier assaults to the serial killer?

I should also add that Sara was a petite blond haole woman - practically the same MO of the dead victims - as I recall they were both blond. The woman that was attacked, I do not know what her hair color was, perhaps you do.

Anyway - this story has always bothered me - and its more troublesome when I see that there is a stupid comment like this: why is it important to this story that the victims were white? Does Summer believe that the case would have been handled differently if they were women of color?

I really got annoyed with that comment - because it takes away from the issue, and the issue is one of solving and ridding the community of this cancer, as anyone with half a brain knows - people who do assaults such as these don't stop, it's a life-long curse. When you look at the modus-operendi, it's Haole women, and it's a big clue about the perpetrator. The Kauai Police Dept. has been a problem department for sometime. They need to be trained in an environment that can handle larger city criminal activity - and that includes murder - because Kauai has graduated to that level, whether they want to believe it or not. After Americas Most Wanted exposed the country to a serial killer in "Paradise", these homicides and attacks need to be solved. Period.

Katy said...

Why would anyone be offended by the questions I asked? I am simply wondering if Sommer believes the case would have been handled differently if the victims had been women of color. He doesn't say that - so why is the fact that the women were white important?

It matters to me because historically, "defending" the so-called "honor" of white women has been used to justify white supremacy.

But maybe he has a really good reason for mentioning it - that's why I ask.

Andy Parx said...

The fact that the victims are white is central to the story. It’s the thing that ties them together police-investigation-wise. It’s what “connected” them, making it a case of “a serial killer”.

And the police lack of response, many believe, was not just protective of a connected local serial killer but because the women were “just haoles anyway”.

The fact they were all white also played into the mainland white stereotype of the “crazed Polynesian rapist at the beach” and so the media story got a lot of outside coverage and publicity. And that press coverage is not just a part of any narrative it is socially and so culturally itself part of the story.

Over the past few decades the courts’, prosecutors’ and police’s protectionism of the “connected” locally born and raised, when compared to the treatment of “haoles”, is incontrovertible and well documented- it’s part of our history.

Whether that was racial vs. anti-outsider is hard to say because the outsiders were almost all from the mainland and therefore white.

I don’t think Tony even went that far in connecting the conduct of those involved with the investigation and the racial ethnic and cultural realities.

Katy said...

Well, Andy, YOUR explanation makes some sense, though I have questions about whether or not the police cared less about the crimes because the victims were white. As I understand it, the crimes deeply affected the feeling of safety of ALL women, including the police officers' mamas. But given the overall tone of the book, I am less likely to believe that Sommer shares your analysis.

KauaiNow said...

To Augustus John,

To answer your question, the other victim was also a petite, blonde caucasian.

Marian said...

As a white middle aged famale who lived on Kauai at the time of the three "serial Killer" attacks, I can say that it was scary. My husband would not let me go anywhere by myself. Darren Singer was killed not far from the place I worked. My friend said her friend was camping at Pakala beach and was supposed call so she could take her to the airport. Darren never called, so my friend assumed she got a ride with someone else to the airport. I told my friend about the report on the radio about a woman's body found at Pakala beach. I told her that she should call the police and it turned out to be Darren.

Unknown said...

The recent murder of Amber reminds us that a criminal is still in our community... or has recently returned... what brought him back?

d said...

This is messed up. We just had that Amber Poole lady murdered...and then there was another haole chick that passed away recently...

Liddo.bit said...

@ Augustus John,
I'm sorry to hear about your friend. But I'm glad I've read it, for that story seems very similar to the most recent (and another questionable) death of a caucasian women.
She was on vacation by herself here on Kauai. And though she had some personal issues, the KPD ruled out her death NOT of murder, but more so "inconclusive". Ha.

This occured about 2 months ago. They recently got the autopsy results in. And before the results KPD "Believe" it had nothing to do with Amber Jackson's murder. Yet they could not pinpoint how she died and will need the autopsy results for confirmation.

Confirmation? On your assumptions? Lol.

I dunno, is it just me, who seems to be confused? Who feel their "updates" on the murder cases seem so vague? And wonder why the community don't seem so disturbed about this?!

I'm a local Woman, born & raised on Kauai. It should affect ALL of us; Women, Men, Children! This is.... Just unGodly of the whole BS. Let's get into reality, Kauai. Wake up!

Patricia said...

Wow. I have been looking up the story about a death on Oahu in 1987, a friend of mine were killed by straggle and murdered. How can the Governor of Hawaii state allow the KAUAI POLICE DEPARTMENT to get away with this action. The KPD should be punished for murder as well as rape. I highly suggest that you woman of Kauai get together and rally against the KPD. I would like to know ware is this suspect of murder, the brother of A KPD officer. the parolee that maxed out his time, the resident of Kauai, ware is his location, what is he doing with his time. People! if KPD doesnt want to do there Job do it for them. Get out follow this man watch him. what about that women that moved to the mainland after the man attacked her and attempted to kill her with the knife but the knife bent. WHAT HAPPEN to her why isn't she comming forward to ittendify this person. I'm in raged of what i'm hearing. How dare you KPD. I would love to have face to face contact with thos suspect.

Anonymous said...

It is pretty obvious the victims were singled out because they were white women, then again, what local type women hang out on the beaches or any where else alone? We caucasians are not afraid to be alone. I was in Kauai in April of 2002 unaware of the rape/murders until my host became very worried about me one evening when I had not returned home by afternoon. She told me it was most likely a "local person" who committed the crimes and was being protected by his relatives in law (less) enforcement. Wow! When she called me I was sitting alone on a beautiful beach in Hanalei watching the sun go down. I hurriedly got up and drove back to my hosts home. During that Kauai visit I drove up the road a ways (not too far) behind the Iravian Monastery when I saw two local looking guys in a black truck staring at me with a very direct look like they wanted me out of there. I quickly did a u-turn and drove back down to the temple. They were definitely letting me know I was not welcome. Ya know, only about 3% of so called locals are actually Hawaiians. Most are a mutt-mix of Chinese, Portegeuse, pinch of far removed Hawaiian they claim and haole usually. You will find a “mixed plate” of ethnic groups in Hawaii; 38.6% of Hawaii's population is Asian, 24.7% is White, 10% is Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, 8.9% is Hispanic, 1.6% is Black or African American, 0.3% is American Indian and Alaska Native, and 23.6% of all Hawaii residents are of multi-ethnic background (two or more races). In my book that boils down to ignorant nothing souls who have no brains or anything worth it in their lives. Frankly, I carry whatever I need to hurt back any scumbag loser rapist and I am a white, middle-aged female. My brother is a real cop in California, not you junk law enforcement wanna-be,Bob's your uncle clowns in Hawai'is law-less enforcement.