Combat stress & rejected marriage proposal may have triggered rage

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – People who knew Kristine Cass, 46, and Clayborne Conley, 43, shared insight Saturday on what may have led the former military man to shoot and kill his one time girlfriend and her 13-year old daughter Saundra early Friday morning. After killing the mother and daughter in their rented Makiki home, Conley turned the gun on himself.

"She was a strikingly pretty woman as it was, but when she smiled it was just angelic. I mean there was just this radiance about her," comedian and voice talent Billy Sage told Hawaii News Now.

Sage knew all three people who died in the shooting. He met them as members of a "breakfast club" that congregates for a bite to eat and good conversation outside Whole Foods in Kahala Mall.

"He had this sort of quick wit and very intelligent. I mean very well educated," Sage said of Conley.

Sage knew Conley well enough that Conley told stories about serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the National Guard. Conley had told Sage he was being treated for post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

"When he'd talk about it he would get very intense because he said I can still see those guys who were dying in my arms," Sage remembered.

Kristine Cass's best friend, Linda Tsai, had also heard stories about Conley's time in the military.

"He said he had PTSD from Iraq, but to me, I think he's just an abusive person," Tsai told Hawaii News Now.

Tsai suspects Conley's violent outburst had more to do with his obsession with Cass. Tsai said Conley wanted to marry Cass, but she declined.

"And I told her I'm scared for you. And I said, you know, he's the kind of guy who can just, you know, he's so obsessed with you, he could just be one of these guys that goes, you know, if I can't have you, no one can," Tsai said.

Conley recently showed up at the publishing company in Kakaako where Cass worked. He made a scene demanding to see Cass.

"I just never ever thought he would do this ever. I thought he would show up at her house and be all loud and stuff and scare her, scare her daughter. I never thought he was capable of this. No way," Tsai said.

"I'm still kind of in shock because the Clay and the Kristine that I knew were just really nice people. And one had problems that were just so horrifying that he ended up murdering and killing himself. It's still incomprehensible," Sage added.

Tsai was vacationing on the mainland when the murders happened, but was hurrying home Saturday to help deal with the tragedy.

Conley's problems with mental illness had landed him in the state hospital, but he was released in April.

In 2007 he spent a two days in jail for violating a temporary restraining order involving another woman. He also had past convictions for assault, property damage, and terroristic threatening.

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