On Thursday night a distressed Kristine Cass called a friend and said she planned to file a temporary restraining order against the man who, just hours later, would fatally shoot her and her 13-year-old daughter, Saundra, before turning the gun on himself.
"I said, ‘I am scared for you,’" said Linda Tsai, a close friend. "She said, ‘I’m kind of scared, too.’"
The double murder-suicide happened at about 1:30 a.m. yesterday at 2009 Makiki St., shattering the early-morning calm of the residential neighborhood with a single shot, followed by a shout for help and as many as a half-dozen subsequent gunshots – all over a 10-minute period.
A neighbor said the intruder apparently bent the bars covering a panel of jalousies to enter the Cass home.
Friends identified the shooter as Clayborne Conley, a former Hawaii National Guardsman with a history of violent behavior and mental instability.
Conley was deployed with his Hawaii unit to Iraq in 2004, and friends said he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Conley and Cass met late last year, Tsai said, and the two dated off and on before Cass recently called it off.
Court records show Conley has had several run-ins with the law, including misdemeanor charges for assault, terroristic threatening and violating a TRO.
In 2009 Conley was acquitted by reason of insanity of first-degree burglary and second-degree charges relating to a January 2007 incident at a Ward Avenue apartment building.
He was committed to the Hawaii State Hospital in April 2009 and placed on conditional release seven months later.
Yesterday’s fatal shooting occurred at the Casses’ rented cottage, located at the end of a long private driveway at Makiki Street and Round Top Drive shared by three homes.
Police say Conley shot Cass, her daughter and a neighbor’s dog, Tika, before turning the gun on himself. Cass, 46; Conley, 43; and Saundra Cass, 13, were pronounced dead at about 2:07 a.m.
"I was sleeping when I heard a gunshot," said neighbor Valerie Guillermo, who immediately went to her bedroom window. "Then I heard a dog barking. Then another shot. A woman then screamed, ‘Stop, stop, stop. Help me.’"
The sounds of a man swearing and more shots followed.
"Then everything became very quiet," she said.
Neighbor Laura Bingaman said she awoke at about 1 a.m. to the sound of breaking glass. After calling police, she heard about eight gunshots, "almost like fireworks," then one more before things became quiet.
IN THE PHONE conversation with Cass on the night before she died, Tsai applauded her friend’s decision to get a TRO against Conley. Tsai told Cass, "He’s going to wind up saying, ‘If I can’t have you, no one can.’"
Tsai said Conley suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq and was diagnosed later with PTSD.
She said he appeared to be struggling, after a period of improvement. Other friends agreed.
Bill Sage, who does voice-overs for radio and television, knew the couple and said Conley recently complained of feeling depressed.
Sage said the former soldier was in an outpatient program for PTSD at Tripler Army Medical Center but was not regularly attending his treatment sessions.
Sage last saw Conley about two weeks ago, at the funeral of a mutual friend. Sage offered to give Conley a ride, and before getting out of the car, Conley told Sage that his "laugh-o-meter" was "down flat."
Sage later saw Cass while grocery shopping, and when he asked about Conley, Cass said he was "having a really hard time."
"About all we can (do) is just pray for him," Cass said.
CONLEY WAS a member of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, National Guard spokesman.
In a 2005 post on the Give2TheTroops website, Conley wrote an e-mail from Baghdad, thanking the group for a care package. "The tuna was great – 40 hungry Hawaiians gobbled it up in about five minutes," he said.
Conley identified himself as a "weekend warrior" with the Hawaii Army National Guard and a former active-duty Ranger in Washington. He said he joined the guard after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In the post, Conley also said he had two children and a wife, to whom he had been married for 17 years.
Conley’s unit returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq in 2005, and he was discharged from the Guard more than three years ago. Anthony could not provide Conley’s exact discharge date or say whether he was honorably discharged.
Anthony also said he could not release details on whether Conley was undergoing treatment at Tripler.
Tsai described Conley, whom she met several times, as intelligent, handsome and full of interesting stories. But, she said, there was another side to him – a behavioral imbalance that concerned Cass "almost from the start" of their relationship.
Tsai said Cass met at one point with Conley’s psychiatrist and made Conley promise her that he would follow through with his treatments.
"One night he said some loud things to her daughter," Tsai said. After that, "They were done."
Tsai said after Cass ended the relationship, Conley threatened to commit suicide, so Cass offered to be his friend. "She said, ‘I will support your getting well,’" Tsai said.
Things got better, Tsai said, then they got much worse. Tsai said Conley called Cass at all hours and then, this week, showed up at her office at Spotlight Hawaii Publishing in Kakaako smoking a cigar and demanding to see her.
On Thursday night, still shaken by Conley making a scene at her workplace, Cass called Tsai and told her that she had decided to get a TRO.
Tsai wonders whether Conley should have been in inpatient care given his behavior. "To me, I don’t know, this can’t happen again," Tsai said. "Somebody like that can’t be walking out among us."