Crimes of passion: Insight into the minds of murderers

Dr. Mitzi Simonelli
Dr. Mitzi Simonelli

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - On Oahu, there have been four crimes of passion since March, with the most recent one involving a love triangle in Maili that Honolulu investigators say ended with a man dead.

What makes ex's snap to the point of killing? In a crime of passion, experts say the one who lays the deadly blow doesn't always have a violent history.

Charles Kahumoku, Craig Kimsel, Clare Silva, and Royal Kaukani, were all murdered within the past two months alone. The suspects in each case have not been convicted, but police say the four victims were entangled in crimes of passion.

"It's that 'you belong to me and even if we're not married, you still belong to me and no one else is going to have you because you're mine, even if we're not together,'" said Mitzi Simonelli, Ph.D.

Dr. Simonelli has worked with inmates at the Halawa Correctional Facility and the Oahu Community Correctional Center the past 20 years. She says many times, crimes of passion are not pre-planned, and that the killers lose control of their emotions, and black out.

"It's always so fascinating because when you talk with them, when they're imprisoned, they many times say they have no idea what happened, they have no idea why that happened, they really don't," she said.

Dr. Simonelli says there's never only one factor that triggers crimes of passion. The inability to cope with emotional crisis is one, and the economy also plays a role.

"The stresses of maybe losing their house or their apartment that they can't even afford to rent. And on top of that, 'How dare you leave me? How dare you leave me?' kind of thing," said Dr. Simonelli.

Can crimes of passion be prevented? Experts say no, but they can be controlled.

"Teaching conflict negotiation kinds of skills and how to deal with stress, in preschool, starting in preschool, all the way through, every single year. And especially teach men, and boys how to deal with things outside of just punching or being the bully on the playground," said Dr. Simonelli.

Dr. Simonelli is a psychology professor at Chaminade University, as well as a licensed forensics expert. She says in the next 10 years, they'll be able to target parts of the brain that trigger severe emotions, and work with people to calm those areas down.