EWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The number of domestic violence homicide cases on Oahu this year is up compared to 2009. The Honolulu Police Department, which has an 18-member unit dedicated to domestic violence investigations, is working to stem the tide.
For one family that suffered a loss last year, time hasn't healed all wounds.
Eleven-month-old Llogyn flashes a smile while his cousin, seven-month-old Zaraiyah, sleeps peacefully nearby. The babies never had a chance to meet their Aunt Royal, an active woman with a radiant smile who was the fifth of seven sisters. Royal was shot and killed in March 2009.
"She is missing. She's like the light of all seven of us. She would be front and center," Esther De Francia, victim's sister, said.
In an instant, the sisters lost their spark plug. Royal Kaukani, 25, was gunned down in broad daylight, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend whom she had a protective order against.
Toi Nofoa was charged with the state's most serious offense of first-degree murder because Kaukani was supposed to be a witness in a prior kidnapping and terroristic threatening case against him. He is awaiting trial.
Perhaps the closest to Royal was her sister, Nadine. Just one year separated the two.
"She would look at me and she would know exactly what I was thinking," Nadine Kuikahi, victim's sister, said. "We'd see somebody or we'd see something. It almost clicked with me and her. We'd think the same thing."
It's heart-breaking losses like these that Honolulu police say they're working to prevent.
Capt. Britt Nishijo oversees the Family Violence Unit comprising one lieutenant and 17 detectives and officers, who undergo specialized training locally and on the mainland.
"We know that domestic violence situations can be real volatile," Nishijo said. "However, our officers are always trained to be compassionate, to be understanding, to be encouraging to come forward."
Between January and July of this year, police investigated about 1,280 misdemeanor domestic abuse cases, a decrease from the approximately 1,330 cases that were opened during the same period in 2009.
The number of felony cases, which include kidnapping and terroristic threatening, also dropped from about 310 in the first seven months of 2009 to about 230 during the same period this year.
But there's been a spike in the number of killings -- seven domestic violence homicide cases so far this year.
"Of course it's a concern for us," Nishijo said. "We will continue to do what we're doing and hopefully reduce it."
A year-and-a-half after Royal's death, her family stays focused on the good times. But each new slaying brings back the pain.
"Our hearts go out to each and every one of these domestic violence cases because we've been there," Kuikahi said.
Police say they hope others suffering in abusive relationships will learn from cases like Royal's.
"Whether or not you want to continue in the relationship, a line has to be drawn on what's acceptable and what's not," Nishijo said.