Friends and acquaintances of Lois Kiehl Cain describe her as a caring but sometimes stubborn woman who had an easy time making friends.
“Lois could talk the ear off a brass monkey, sometimes giving you more details about an issue than you wanted to hear,” says Bill Spotts. “She was extremely friendly. She could walk up to a stranger and befriend them in minutes. She knew everybody.”
He described her as “a strong willed, feisty person.”
But others who knew Cain said she was inclined to dig in her heels and refuse to listen to anyone saying something she didn’t want to hear.
That friendliness — and stubbornness — may have been her undoing. Cain is the Diamond Head property owner now thought to have been murdered by the man she befriended and let live in her home rent free for many years.
Cain and her late husband owned the home at 3015 Hibiscus Drive where police say her tenant, Jaroslav “Jarda” Hanel, who also went by Jerry, fatally shot two police officers and wounded another officer on Sunday.
Hanel is also alleged to have killed Cain and stabbed Gisela Ricardi King, another tenant at the property, before setting a fire that destroyed Cain’s home and six other houses.
Police said the killings were sparked after Cain began eviction proceedings against Hanel.
Remains of two individuals have been found in the rubble of the fire but the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s office said Wednesday it will be weeks before it can be determined if the remains are Cain and Hanel.
A Long Friendship
Spotts said he met Cain in 1995 soon after he got into the condominium property management business after he retired as a captain from the U.S. Navy.
“She became like my big sister, ” he said.
He worked closely with Cain after he took over management of the property at 2987 Kalakaua Ave. on the Diamond Head coast where Cain and her husband Raymond owned a condo. Cain was then secretary and later president of the building’s condominium owners’ association.
Spotts said through the years Cain came to rely on him for legal and property management advice, calling him from California, where she had been living to care for her elderly mother who died in 2018.
Cain returned to Honolulu in October after legally closing her mother’s estate.
Spotts says she called him in early December to say she was fed up with Hanel who had been living for free in the ground floor unit of the Hibiscus Drive property. She wanted to get a temporary restraining order and to get him to move out.
She had moved back to the top floor of the house where she shared space with King and her husband and child.
She told Spotts the final straw was when she found Hanel smoking on the front porch of the property. When she told him to stop smoking, he defiantly walked back into the house and got another cigarette.
Police Chief Susan Ballard said he is believed to have used a rifle in the shooting. But police say Hanel did not have a permit to own firearms.
But Cain mentioned to one of the guests at Spotts’ Dec. 14 Christmas party that her late husband had a collection of antique handguns that she kept in a box under her bed. He said she was trying to find out from the guest about the resale value of such revolvers.
Spotts said he asked her if there was any ammunition in the box with the guns and she told him no.
Some media reports of the recent shooting have suggested Hanel used a gun owned by Cain to fire on the officers as they walked up the driveway.
Police have not said specifically what kind of weapon was used or where it might have come from.
‘A Heart Of Gold’
Spotts said Cain had “a heart of gold” and initially had wanted to help Hanel.
She met Hanel more than 20 years ago when the owners’ association at 2987 Kalakaua hired him to be the building’s site manager. When he was fired from that job she let come live in her Hibiscus Drive home.
But Spotts said Hanel’s behavior was becoming bizarre.
About a year ago, Spotts said Cain called him from California to say Hanel had a dog in the house, which she had forbidden. But he kept the dog in the house anyway and when the dog died he built a coffin, which he left opened on the front lawn for five days with the dead dog inside.
A neighbor said when Cain ordered him to bury the dog, he told her he wanted her to give him $50,000 to clone the dog.
Spotts said Cain was a hard worker and took on home repair jobs herself such as building cabinets and climbing up on the roof to check for leaks which she easily could have hired someone else to do.
He said her husband had left her with ample money after he died of leukemia in 2005 but that she was thrifty and didn’t like to spend money if she didn’t have to.
Spotts said he found Cain enterprising and always ready to take charge, but others described her as a know-it-all who stubbornly refused to take advice from anyone.
“Lois thought she knew everything. If you tried to give her suggestions, she would turn on her heels and walk away from you,” said her neighbor Stephany Sofos, who says she has known Cain for 50 years.
Sofos said she tried to warn Cain about Hanel’s paranoid behavior, which she said escalated after the death of his dog. “She told me, ‘Oh, you don’t understand anything about Jarda. He’s just being Jarda.’”
Linda Moriarity who owns a unit in the 2987 Kalakaua condominium, said that residents there also became fed up with Cain’s unwillingness to discuss issues with anyone who disagreed with her or had their own ideas about how to improve the condominium.
“It was her way or the highway,” said Moriarity.
Cain was eventually removed as association president.
She retired in 2009 from the University of Hawaii Manoa where she had been hired in 2004 to work under a federal grant in the Science and Technology Department of Hamilton Library.
A 1975 article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, titled “Gyrations of a Belly Dancer,” described how Cain had started as an undergraduate at the UH hoping to eventually become a doctor like her father.
Cain’s father, Col. Paul V. Kiehl, was chief surgeon at Tripler Army Medical Center from 1961 until 1965.
Cain, known then as Lois Ann Kiehl, transferred to the University of Washington where she graduated with a zoology degree. She said she became enraptured with dance instead of science.
When she got her degree, she worked briefly on a National Science Foundation project studying pollution in Lake Washington but then took off for Europe.
“I stayed there for six months doing crazy things. I worked on a farm. Took a train to Moscow, studied folk lore and went to Greece, Turkey and Istanbul,” she told the Star-Bulletin.
She kept traveling, getting hired in Barcelona as a flamenco dancer in a troupe with which she traveled for two years through Spain and to Argentina.
In the mid-1970s, Cain made her way back to Hawaii where she got a job working seven days a week as a belly dancer at the Mad Greek, a small restaurant then on Cooke Street in Kakaako.
A 1975 newspaper photo shows Cain belly dancing before a toga clad Mayor Frank Fasi when the two of them volunteered to participate in a Mock Roman Circus sponsored by the Latin Club at St. Andrews Priory.
Cain later became an actor, choreographer and costume maker for the Hawaii Theatre for Youth.
After retiring, Cain spent her time easing her mother’s final days, visiting with friends and gardening.
Many signs were there, that something dark might happen to her and others in the seemingly peaceful Diamond Head neighborhood, but as her friend Sofos said, “Lois was in denial.”
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.