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Police investigate murder-suicide involving retired officer

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 02:50 p.m. HST, Feb 13, 2012

A retired Honolulu Police officer apparently shot his ill wife in Hawaii Kai Sunday and then turned the weapon on himself in what appears to be a murder-suicide, police said.

The Medical Examiner’s Office identified the couple as Leighton Yasuhara, 81, and his wife Julia, 79.

A Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman confirmed that Yasuhara served on the police force.

Police said Yasuhara’s son heard three gunshots coming from their bedroom when he checked on them after his father unexpectedly cancelled an appointment Sunday morning.

The man went to his parent’s Anakua Street home at about 11 a.m. and tried to get into the bedroom after hearing the shots, but the door was locked, police said. He called 911 and police discovered what appeared to be a murder-suicide.

An autopsy will be conducted today to determine the cause of death.

The couple was unresponsive and paramedics at the scene made the death pronouncement.

The woman was suffering from a long-term illness, police said.

A spokesman for Aha Hui O Na Makai Hauola, a club for retired Honolulu Police officers, said Yasuhara “was very close” to his wife.  “I can understand he would want to be with her.”

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Fatal shots were fired by retired HPD officer

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Manapua_Man wrote:
Sad. What gives anyone the right to take a life?
on February 12,2012 | 03:20PM
ptofview wrote:
Pain is a terrible path that doesn't cease. I sympathize with a caretaker that must watch while a loved one is in pain. It's not about ending a life, it's about ending the pain. There is no dignity when one must beg for pain relief even knowing that a life will be ruined in the process.
on February 12,2012 | 05:27PM
Changalang wrote:
on February 12,2012 | 06:23PM
Vivgie wrote:
I agree. They both loved each other deeply.
on February 13,2012 | 07:47AM
Manapua_Man wrote:
Only God should decide that.
on February 12,2012 | 09:14PM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Really?? What is the purpose of going thru a lifelong illness when there's no medical relief in sight? When you're old and there's no hope, what is the purpose?? What is this great plan that God has in store for those suffering permanently?
on February 13,2012 | 05:33AM
Manapua_Man wrote:
No matter what, taking another's life is always a sin.
on February 13,2012 | 03:52PM
svache wrote:
It's only a sin because you think it's a sin. One could stress it's just as much a sin to let someone suffer.
on February 13,2012 | 10:41PM
Eradication wrote:
Who's god? Yours? I was a caregiver for my mother for 11 years. While I never considered "ending her pain" I was glad when it ended. Not for me but for her. No one can imagine the suffering a person goes through watching someone who you've spent a lifetime growing old with deteriorate physically and/or mentally unless you've gone through it yourself. Keep your religion out of it. Your god could care less about this person or else it would not have let this person suffer.
on February 13,2012 | 08:06AM
HD36 wrote:
on February 13,2012 | 02:55PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
I suppose you also believe "abortion" is OK.
on February 13,2012 | 03:55PM
SteveToo wrote:
Yup, sure do. Contraception also.
on February 13,2012 | 07:40PM
Poipounder808 wrote:
Until you have walked in someone's shoes you have no right to judge them. Everyone has their own relationship with their God. I have been a caregiver for a relative and know first hand how hard it is emotionally to see a loved one in pain and knowing there is no hope. I actually feel this was a final act of love between a husband and his wife. Don't play the blame game in the name of God.
on February 13,2012 | 08:44AM
cojef wrote:
Truer words spoken, by a wise man. It is very difficult to care for a spouse with a lingering illness, let alone a painful one. However, sometimes it's best to wait and see situation. Spouse is cancer free for over 10 years now after having 3/4 of her stomach removed. It was touch and go the first 3 months when all the chores have to be borne by the other half. In the end, each couple based on what is presented in their lives, must make the decvision. I believe legal euthanasia is a viable option, if it is determine by a qualified professional that there is only lingering illness remaining without any quality life for that individual, God not withstanding.
on February 13,2012 | 09:12AM
hanoz808 wrote:
so did god decide to put her through agony in her life too? sounds hypocritical
on February 13,2012 | 10:58AM
1local wrote:
treasure and cherish the good times and memories - they live on in us forever...
on February 13,2012 | 10:18AM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
I feel so much for caregivers and people dying from morbidly painful deaths. To say living with intense pain for an extended time without any hope for survival is just an awful existance. Frankly I seriously doubt that it is even an exisitance at all. . My grandfater died a very painful death from cancer and at the end even heavy does of morphine couldn't stop the pain. My mother, a nurse, had to watch her father go crazy from the pain and then die. It scared her. And just recently I suffered a illness where I'd go for hours in extreme pain. Being a serious health nut I refused any painkillers. But after 18 hours at a pain level of 9 out of 10 I gave in and took the medication. I can't imagine what my grandfather went through. Even though my religion is completely against taking life or suicide I can't imagine living with a level 10 pain day after day. Suicide would be incredibly hard to resist. My deepest symphathies to the families involved and may those two rest in peacy. God bless..
on February 12,2012 | 06:27PM
RKC808 wrote:
I understand your pain. I saw my sister wither away from cancer for a year and a half. Coming home to screams of pain. I understand why the old man did it. What a toll it took on our family. Especially my mother.
on February 12,2012 | 08:00PM
olos73 wrote:
My dad had stomach cancer in his 80's. Removed his stomach at 82. Couldn't eat or drink anything through his mouth. Tube placed in what was left of his stomach and fed only liquids. Imagine living until 80-something and your last years you cannot take anything in your mouth. Not even water. Skin shriveled and was so fragile, if you handled him wrong, the skin would peel off. Went from 160 to 80 pounds. So hard seeing a vibrant man go through something like that. Over two years later before pain finally stopped.
on February 13,2012 | 12:21PM
1local wrote:
remember and cherish the good times and memories - they live on forever...
on February 13,2012 | 10:12AM
Bigdog_MD wrote:
Sad, I agree. But when God greets this man and his wife at Heaven's gate, He'll tell them, "I'm sorry I was unable to ease your pain. I've been waiting for you."
on February 13,2012 | 11:34AM
Changalang wrote:
Death without dignity.
on February 12,2012 | 04:08PM
NoFire wrote:
What a tragedy. It may have ended different if this couple had the knowledge that they could discuss aid in dying with a physician. Aid in dying is a choice in Hawaii. The end of life certainly would have been more humane, peaceful and dignified. Our hearts feel for them and their families.
on February 13,2012 | 09:32AM
copperwire9 wrote:
on February 13,2012 | 02:50PM
kainalu wrote:
More than likely a husband distraught over the condition of his wife, with her begging him incessantly to end her life. Challenging his love for her and his manhood in the process. Just like my mom did to my dad for the last 2-years of her life. My mom dealing with a long-suffering slow death, we all witnessed the torture set upon my dad. The experience have left ALL OF US strong advocates for death-with-dignity, a subject we never gave a second thought to otherwise.
on February 12,2012 | 04:25PM
SteveToo wrote:
Agree, concidering the ages of the two, that's what most likely happended..
on February 12,2012 | 04:58PM
HD36 wrote:
Your right. It's our bodies, not the government's.
on February 12,2012 | 06:56PM
Changalang wrote:
If the man's wife was a stray dog at the humane society, then she would have had a less violent death to ease her pain. However, the humanity ends at stray animals; not beloved relatives. Would she have passed easier with a lot of morphine rather than a bullet? Would the man have had to turn the syringe on himself if the gov't allowed death with dignity? I think, NOT. Support Hospice; support ultimate humanity. Dying well is the last best thing a person can do.
on February 12,2012 | 09:01PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
So true. So true. St Francis' hopice was awesome.
on February 13,2012 | 02:07PM
HD36 wrote:
on February 13,2012 | 02:57PM
false wrote:
My they finally rest in peace!
on February 12,2012 | 06:55PM
Changalang wrote:
If the man's wife was a stray dog at the humane society, then she would have had a less violent death to ease her pain. However, the humanity ends at stray animals; not beloved relatives. Would she have passed easier with a lot of morphine rather than a bullet? Would the man have had to turn the syringe on himself if the gov't allowed death with dignity? I think, NOT. Support Hospice; support ultimate humanity. Dying well is the last best thing a person can do.
on February 12,2012 | 09:01PM
surfandthink wrote:
May they both rest in peace. My deepest sympathy to their families and survivors. The tragedy is that the couple may not have been aware of their rights. If indeed she was terminally ill, she could have called the Compassion and Choices Hawaii hotline to request a more peaceful death. According to Compassion's lawyers, death with dignity is already a legal option in Hawaii: there is no prohibition against aid in dying. A constellation of Hawaii laws makes it so there is no need for mercy killings in our state. A peaceful death is a choice.
on February 12,2012 | 10:14PM
pechanga wrote:
Only someone in a similar circumstance might really understand what anguish a caregiver experiences when a love one screams with constant pain.
on February 13,2012 | 02:37AM
kainalu wrote:
Mahalo. I have been in that process, while only secondary to my father who was on the front lines of that battle. I categorically state: it's a horrific experience that traumatizes the entire family, in the case of my father and self, never to recover from that experience. My father has since passed-away too, but for all intents and purposes, he died when my mother became totally incapacitated, a condition she lived with for the last 2-years of her life. Again, the experience has left our entire family, to include some friends as passionate advocates for death-with-dignity.
on February 13,2012 | 06:28AM
paradiddle wrote:
This is an terrible issue that will torture more and more of us and is only certain to increase with our aging population. I have nightmares and struggle with what I would do when the time comes. My religion says it is a sin to end the suffering and the guilt and pain that I know I would feel would be just as unbearablel. The hurt and anguish (and anger) of family and loved ones left behind is the only reason I have not yet made up my mind. I pray that this decision/option is one I will not have to face. My sincere condolences to the family.
on February 13,2012 | 03:22AM
fyaman001 wrote:
Manapua_Man sits in judgement of others once again.....your posts are always so tedious and one-note. I hope you never have to experience the hopelessness and suffering that this couple experienced in the twilight of their lives; and that you have the access and knowledge to provide yourself with more dignity in death than they could. RIP
on February 13,2012 | 05:51AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Great post.
on February 13,2012 | 07:28AM
lowtone123 wrote:
Each person has a right to die as much as they have a right to live. More people should be made aware that options other than this is availalbe to those who would like to dye peacefully, painlessly, and with dignity. My condolences to the family.
on February 13,2012 | 07:11AM
Vivgie wrote:
A gunshot is so quick you won't feel the pain. It's just messy and upsetting. Do it outdoors away from the house so there is no curse or bad karma for the house and its survivors. Do celebrate their life in happy days at the funeral. They truly loved each other.
on February 13,2012 | 07:51AM
tutunona wrote:
Only God understands and forgives............it is not for us to judge
on February 13,2012 | 07:57AM
kiragirl wrote:
on February 13,2012 | 09:58AM
BigOpu wrote:
Very heartbreaking. If it is what we all want to believe, that it was done in love to end the misery, then can we really fault the guy for doing what he truley felt was right at that moment in time? Maybe he considered his options, and it wasn't working for him. Sure there are options in hind sight, but we really don't know or understand what this couple was dealing with. I wouldn't have the guts to turn a gun on a family member to end pain, but then again, when walking in the same shoes as this couple...I just don't know. My mother slowly passed on, and it was in her weakest moments that confirmed how strong she was to hold on for us, to give me and my family our private time with her. Taking her life was never a thought, but it was the hardest experience I've had to date watching my beloved mom wither away. I hope the after life supports his decision with eternal happiness. I really do.
on February 13,2012 | 08:19AM
soshaljustic wrote:
Unlike Manapua Man, I believe in the right to take the life of the self when terminally ill. I do not believe in Murder/Suicide Pacts of the elderly! I do not believe in the current medical system that places the burden on the family to provide care for the ill member of the family, and let's the family disintegrate under this burden, as has happened numerous times! __________________________When our public policy places the onus on public/private business partnerships without rendering the actual services the taxpayer is paying for, it is time to dismantle this over burdened taxpaying hole the public is paying into, sans any benefit! ______________________________With the taxpayer saved monies on the job losses of expensive and overpaid managers that never lift a finger, perhaps the taxpayer can get relief in the form of private duty in home care and help?____________________________We hear too much from legislators that manage with their corporate buddies that pay into the vote system! ENUF!!! ______________________The taxpayer has had enuf of this and needs appropriate help! Establish fiscal policy that gives in home care help to the family that needs it! The elderly! There are more of these tragic scenarios coming! This can be stopped with simple legislation of federal and state dollars! Tell your representatives they must legislate sound home care policies for the ill, and NOT rely on the OVERBURDENED FAMILY because the ILL PERSON AND THE SPOUSE see's and know's they are OVERBURDENING the FAMILY! __________________DOES NOT MATTER IF YOU TELL THEM OTHERWISE! FOR SAFETY's sake!! STOP THE CARNAGE NOW and do not let another occur! SEE:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2685270/ for the CDC statistics on this very common situation! THIS IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE and is common in the home of the elderly where one parent is ill!!_____________________REMOVE THE FIREARMS!!!!
on February 13,2012 | 08:46AM
KelleeMalia wrote:
Whether it is wrong or right, it's not for us to judge. It is just heartbreaking.
on February 13,2012 | 10:12AM
walaau808 wrote:
With all due respect to every post here and especially with respect to those loved ones who've suffered and who are no longer with us, it is extremely difficult to witness someone suffering from illnesses that really have no cure. Of course it would be easy to allow them (along with us) to end their lives on their own terms but is that a fundamental human right, or an easy way out? I'm not suggesting in any way that it's easy to deal with unimaginable physical pain because I've never had to. I've lost my share of relatives to various illnesses and I've definitely learned something along the way. Along with pain and heartache I've learned patience, compassion, love, appreciation, and tolerance. I've learned to think of others more than myself, and most importantly I've learned to find the good in any situation life throws at me. May the Yasuhara's find peace, and may their family also find peace and comfort during this difficult time.
on February 13,2012 | 10:44AM
Kapakahi wrote:

Not sure why an option being "the easy way out" counts AGAINST it rather than in its favor? We take "the easy way out" with our dogs and cats when they are dying. Why is it ok to be "humane" with our dying pets but not with our dying family members? When my time comes, I want to be the one who decides which way is the easier path and whether the value of being kept alive merits the pain and suffering.

I have talked with both of my parents and they are strong advocates for NOT prolonging their lives by artificial means when the quality of their life degrades too much. Determining that point is difficult in practice. But in my view, it is unquestionably the right of the patient to make that call, hopefully in consultation with their loved ones and doctor. Unfortunately, most dying people are no longer in a position to make the choice for themselves or lack the strength and means to carry out their intentional dying without assistance.

The LAST people who should butt in on these difficult decisions without an invitation are the politicians and the priests. If the clergy are invited to help the patient discuss the meaning of life and the significance of death, or to help the person and their family come to terms with their passing, hallelujah! But just because the Catholic Church is able to exert political pressure on politicians fearful of being re-elected in certain districts, should not empower them to impose their religious views on my dying loved ones.

on February 13,2012 | 01:31PM
Kapakahi wrote:


I'm not sure there is an EASY way out under these conditions. But why wouldn't we WANT people to have an EASIER option under such circumstances? I would think "easier" would be a plus here, not an objection.

I believe it is "a fundamental human right" for people to decide when and how they die WHEN their condition is terminal and their suffering is such that it makes living miserable. I believe we have an obligation to try to prevent people from committing suicide when they are depressed or distraught, so I hope people WILL intervene when people try to end their lives out of despair. But that points to the need for establishing reasonable safeguards, as they have done in places like Oregon, where the legal right to end one's suffering has been recognized.

Rather than force people to suffer needlessly through prolonged dying, I think we are capable-- and there is a place for clergy to become involved-- of creating humane processes to aid the dying in making their own choice in the matter and to help family and friends come to terms with their dying, to say good by while the person is still alive, rather than in a memorial service afterwards. Forcing a husband to use a gun, and then commit suicide himself, as APPEARS to be the case here, demonstrates the irrationality of allowing priests and politicians to dictate the law, rather than family members, doctors and more helpful clergy.

on February 13,2012 | 01:46PM
surfandthink wrote:
It's a very sad story but it's also a love story. It now seems that Mrs. Yasuhara had a long-term illness and that she and her husband “were a very close couple." So this is about love: it's about love at the end of life. Possibly, this double tragedy could have been avoided if the word was out that in Hawaii patients with a terminal illness can freely discuss aid in dying as an option with their physicians. I can truly understand why Officer Yasuhara would not want to continue living in this world without his beloved wife. However, under the current Hawaii law he could have let his wife die peacefully in bed with the help of a physician and with her family present. He could then have decided to be or not to be: it would have been his choice to make. Like I said earlier, the current Hawaii constitution makes it possible for patients to openly discuss all their options with their physicians--including the option of a peaceful death. Mercy killings are no longer needed in Hawaii. Finally, I invite all couples on this coming Valentine's day to spend a few moments reflecting on the deep love the Yasuharas must have felt for each other. What would you do if you were in their situation?
on February 13,2012 | 10:51AM
pueouhane wrote:
GOD? Give god a rest! This poor man must of struggled for so long, so often, praying for peace and resolve. A most difficult decision and action in this man's entire life and we speak of god and rights? Show some compassion and understanding for this family. Cross that path before you pass judgement, live that life as a caregiver to the most important person in your life as it slowly suffers and wither away in front of you, day in and day out. I'd like to think he was a good man, father, brother, son, and best friend to his wife. I would of loved to have met him, to say I respect and admire him for just being a man, a man deeply in love. Surely my Gad will love and forgive him for his actions.
on February 13,2012 | 11:02AM
Vivgie wrote:
God did not make Man. Man made God. George Soros
on February 13,2012 | 11:55AM
Grimbold wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on February 13,2012 | 11:10AM
surfandthink wrote:
We must get word out that patients with terminal illness can freely discuss aid in dying as an option with their physician, and such tragedies avoided. The Hawaii constitution does not prohibit aid in dying. If the word gets out, these type of double tragedies can be avoided in Hawaii: Mrs Yasuhara could have died peacefully in bed surrounded by family and friends. Instead, we had a tragedy. Mr. Yasuhara must have been out of his mind with grief, worry and fear. Having to shoot someone you love....I cannot imagine in a million years what he must have felt, not only that, then having to shoot himself. This is a deep love story but it's also very tragic and sad. Hopefully, couples will spend a few moments on Valentine's day meditating on the meaning of the deep love the Yasuhara's felt for each other. These are the types of issues lovers must face at the end of life. What would you do if you were in the Yasuhara's situation?
on February 13,2012 | 11:46AM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
That Mr. Yasuhara pulled the trigger on himself tells you a lot on how intense the feelings he must have felt. If you ever had to put a dog down yourself with your own hands (not just dropping him off at the vet's) you'll just MIGHT have an idea what it must be like to put your loved one, your soulmate to death. Just multiply that feeling by a thousand times. It must have been crushing. But, I am not too worried about Mr. Yasuhara's soul because his motive, right or wrong, was out of love. God forgives mistakes...if not, I'm in a lot of trouble!
on February 13,2012 | 02:23PM
Aquarius1 wrote:
So sad and tragic. My condolences to the family.
on February 13,2012 | 11:33AM
LanaUlulani wrote:
What a tragedy. So sad. My thoughts and prayers go to everyone who loves both of them.
on February 13,2012 | 11:57AM
silvangold wrote:
So it is ok to take care of your loved one....watch that painful slow death...and all that. What I read below is all that of the one left behind to care for and watch the one person you love the most lay there in such pain you could not imagine....it's ok. It's ok for you to watch this. NOT. everyone seems to be more interested in "but it's not right" .... "nobody has the right"...... leaving God out of it, what about the person lying there who can't help themselves. Is this "the right" ??? WHO SAYS SO? yes, feel pain for the caretaker......listen to the law.....then PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR PLACE........ and really, once it's done, there's no pain, and nobody goes to jail. I'm NOT saying thats right. but hell, is right to rob and kill a stranger then get away with it (by judges letting them go ... only to do it again)................ I don't know...seems as though nothing is "right" in this world!
on February 13,2012 | 12:33PM
Kapakahi wrote:

Bishop Larry SIlva actually said there is no need to allow doctors to prescribe medicines which could end a suffering patients life because one can already commit suicide by using a gun! Without knowing more about the challenges facing this couple, I am hesitant to jump to conclusions. But allowing Physician Assistance in dying may have allowed this husband an opportunity to say good by to his wife in a supportive, less shameful, less violent manner. And he might still be alive himself.

One of the interesting results from research conducted on the "Death With Dignity" law in Oregon has been on the emotional differences between a regular "suicide" and a physician assisted death. In a suicide, family survivors are generally emotionally torn up and guilt-ridden, often to the end of their lives. The opposite is true with Death With Dignity. Family members generally feel supportive and calm in the recognition the pain of their loved one is over AND that it was in accordance with the dying person's own wishes. While there is sadness over the passing of the loved one, the healing process is much faster than either with a suicide or with the traditional, dragged out process of dying.

Again, I do not know the family in this case nor the particulars. But on its face, it appears to have become much more tragic and painful than was necessary. As compassionate people, we should work to provide more reasonable "end of life" solutions for our friends, neighbors and family members.

on February 13,2012 | 01:20PM
kprtyqn wrote:
True love but sad they had to end a wonderful life together this way. Hoping our Heavenly Father has forgiven them of this ill fate and taken them both into his graces
on February 13,2012 | 01:32PM
localpoi wrote:
That's why we should have death with dignity, Physician assisted suicide, Oregon and Washington State has it.there was a great documentary on HBO on demand.
on February 13,2012 | 02:48PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Saw Leighton and his wife doing their walk at Kahala Mall last year. They looked happy. He always had a smile on his face. Rest in Peace my friends.
on February 13,2012 | 10:09PM
51butterflies wrote:
My condolences and prayers to the family. God is the final judge, it is not for us to judge.
on February 14,2012 | 12:10AM
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