The man suspected of killing his live-in girlfriend, assaulting her mother and then jumping off the H-3 freeway to his death had 18 criminal convictions — including for domestic violence and other violent crimes — and was considered a repeat offender, his former lawyer said yesterday.
Michael Thomas’ crimes included convictions for burglary, assault, resisting arrest, harassment, terroristic threatening, unlawful imprisonment, violating protective orders against him and abusing a family or household member, according to criminal records.
Thomas was in Oahu Community Correctional Center in 2006 serving a one-year term for abusing a family or household member and for violating a protective order when he was accused of attacking OCCC guards, said his former attorney, Walter J. Rodby. A videotape discovered by Rodby showed the guards beating Thomas without provocation, Rodby said.
"The guards accused him of felony assault," Rodby said. "But when I watched the videotape, it was unbelievable. It showed the guards attacking him for no reason."
Asked why correctional officers might attack an inmate for no apparent reason, Rodby said, "Michael would express himself. If he wasn’t happy with the way he was being treated, he would let them know. I assume the guards didn’t like that and that’s why they attacked him."
While Thomas was in OCCC, Rodby offered to give him a batch of old children’s books, and Thomas took him up on the offer last month.
"He looked good," Rodby said. "It was clear that he was sober. He wasn’t like a monster. I remember thinking that he wanted to get his life back on track."
The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office still was not releasing yesterday the identity of Thomas, 27, or his former girlfriend, Sydney Kline, 33.
However, Kline’s landlord, Corazon Villasista, identified Kline and described her as a kind and caring spirit. For the past three years, Kline and her 12-year-old daughter rented the unit above Villasista’s garage in Kaneohe.
"She was very nice, very kind, very loving to her daughter," Villasista said. "More or less, that’s her life, her daughter."
The man whom Villasista knew only as "Mikey" had recently moved in.
"Talking with him and knowing Sydney, I never thought that this would happen," Villasista said. "It’s really beyond my imagination. … I was sad, I was really sad, knowing these two. The guy was also talking about one of these days he would like to get married with her."
Friends placed bouquets of flowers near Kline’s home.
"There had been arguments, but I didn’t think it would amount to this," Villasista said.
Without identifying them by name, police said Kline and Thomas had gotten into an argument Friday night at home and that Kline left.
She returned Saturday with her mother for personal belongings when they discovered items in the home had been damaged.
They called police and — as officers were on their way — Thomas attacked them. He stabbed Kline multiple times as she tried to run down Kapunahala Road. She later died.
A woman who answered the door yesterday at the Kaneohe home of Kline’s mother declined to comment. A woman who identified herself as a relative at Kline’s workplace at the Department of Education’s Windward Oahu District Office also said the family did not want to comment.
DOE officials said they had no comment because Kline had not been positively identified and because the family requested privacy.
But DOE officials at Kline’s office and at her alma mater were certainly talking about the 1995 Castle High graduate.
She grew up in Nuuanu but attended King Intermediate and Castle High in Kaneohe after her family moved to the Windward side, said longtime family friend Michele Harris.
After graduating from Castle, Kline worked for seven years as office manager at Blue Moon Builders Inc., which Harris owned.
While at the company, Kline earned an accounting degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which led to a career with the DOE.
Harris described her friend as a "very gentle soul, a very gentle woman who never harmed anyone" but also was not afraid to stand up for herself.
"She wasn’t looking for a bad boy or was prone to drama or histrionics," Harris said. "It’s just such a tragedy that a capable and independent woman could fall into this mess of domestic violence."
Nanci Kreidman, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Action Center, said: "We always say that domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic classes, professions, educational levels, religions and ethnic groups.
"These kinds of domestic homicides are illustrative of that fact that this can happen to anyone," Kreidman said. "In this case, she was leaving him, and he wasn’t going to have it."