Review by Michael Tsai The Honolulu Advertiser October 15 2003
Roland Kotani. Byran Uyesugi. Diane Suzuki. John Miranda. Troy Barboza. Orlando Ganal. For longtime Hawaii residents the names are freighted with deep and disturbing significance. Some were victims some were killers all were actors in unspeakable personal tragedies played out before a horrified captivated public.
In their newly released book Honolulu Homicide retired Honolulu Police Department Maj. Gary A. Dias and veteran reporter Robbie Dingeman revisit these and other infamous criminal cases from Honolulus recent past.
The husband-and-wife team delivers fresh insights and informed commentary about cases that have been continually but incompletely analyzed and discussed in the community.
Much of the book is based on observations Dias and Dingeman made while on the job. There are also never-before-published interviews with key figures like HPD Maj. Louis Souza who pursued Hawaii's first identified serial killer in the mid-1980s and Lorna Kanehira whose husband Ford was murdered by Uyesugi during the 1999 Xerox massacre and who later emerged as one of the most eloquent voices of Hawaii crime victims.
Though some of the accounts like the murder of Kotani by his wife Grace include graphic details the authors were careful about making sure the effect was not cheap or sensational.
These are cases that are familiar to a lot of people in the community and we wanted to offer some details and insights that we had gained through our work Dias said. At the same time we took into consideration the fact that we were writing about human beings and that in each case a tragedy had occurred.
Unlike other insider authors Dias checks his respect for his former profession with a clear-eyed appraisal of the difficulties and frustrations that attend the everyday work of homicide investigators. He is critical of the way ranking officers inadvertently contaminated the Barboza crime scene and of the latitude that was granted off-duty officer Clyde Arakawa after he was involved in a drunken-driving incident that killed 19-year-old Dana Ambrose.
Dias insights as a former police officer are particularly valuable in addressing the Arakawa incident. Without letting the attending officers off the hook for the inappropriate considerations they showed Arakawa Dias is able to put their actions into context with a credible explanation of the Custer Syndrome that binds officers in difficult situations.
We wanted to show the unique things that happen during cases both good and bad Dias said. We didnt pull any punches.
Its the second book for Dias who earned positive reviews for his 2002 memoir Honolulu Cop. Dias spent six years as the lieutenant in charge of HPDs homicide detail. He was an evening news fixture with his measured sometimes terse responses to reporter queries. He now works as manager of security at The Queens Medical Center in Honolulu.
After many years of having to be being conservative in the way he talked about things Dias wanted to talk a little bit more about how he felt and what he thought about these investigations Dingeman said. Dingeman who reports on health issues for The Advertiser covered numerous high-profile crime cases as a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and KHON TV Channel 2 News.
For the sake of consistency and readability the book is presented from Dias perspective and voice but the authors split the research and writing.
Dias said some of the chapters were written collaboratively while others were divvied according to who was more deeply involved initially in the specific case.
It was fun to brainstorm because a lot of times we saw things from the opposite view as they were happening Dingeman said. At the time I was pushing for more information and detail while he was trying to control the amount of information that got out to the public to protect the investigation.
Without disturbing the flow of the book Dias and Dingeman demonstrate distinct differences in the way they approach their narratives.
Dingeman uses her reportorial skills to construct moving but objective accounts of the devastating fallout of violent crimes with particular attention to victims and their families while Dias sections emphasize the pressures and responsibilities police face when investigating a crime and the complexity of securing evidence that can lead to a conviction.