Man found dead after Waiehu house burns

WAIEHU – Police are investigating arson and suicide in the death of a man whose body was found in a home on Kakae Place in Waiehu after firefighters extinguished flames that burned the back portion of the house Wednesday morning, police said.

The body is believed to be that of the 52-year-old homeowner, said Lt. Jayson Rego of the police Criminal Investigation Division.

Three family dogs in the house also died in the fire, with a fourth injured dog turned over to an animal rescue organization for treatment, Rego said.

Rego said police officers responding to the 6:19 a.m. call of a possible abuse in progress at the Oceanview Estates home were told that the man had set his house on fire and had fired several gunshots in the home. Officers saw the rear of the residence engulfed in flames and heard several gunshots from inside the home, Rego said.

Firefighters, who responded to extinguish the flames, located the charred remains of the man, Rego said.

He said the victim had not been positively identified, with the investigation in its beginning stages because of the time it took to douse the flames and debris from the fire.

The fire was brought under control by 7:11 a.m., a fire official said.

A Wailuku fire crew remained at the scene until about 10:20 a.m. to extinguish flare-ups in the blaze.

Rego said investigators were sifting through what remained at the residence for evidence and indicators of the cause of the fire, including whether accelerants were used.

The fire damaged the back portion of the house and wasn’t readily visible from the street.

Seattle resident Shannon Smith, who arrived on Maui on Tuesday to visit his daughter who lives on Kakae Place, said he had left the street to go for a walk to the golf course at about 6:10 a.m. Wednesday. He was near the 15th tee when he first saw a little smoke, then “tons of black smoke.” Soon after, flames were shooting about 30 feet in the air.

“It went to flame so quick, it had to be some accelerant,” he said. “Normally, you wouldn’t see flames that quickly. They were so high and so hot.”

Once firefighters arrived, “it didn’t take them long to knock it down,” Smith said.

Police closed Kakae Place, reopening the cul-de-sac at 9:28 a.m.

Dennis Burns of Valley Isle Animal Rescue, which picked up the injured dog from the home, said the shepherd mix was scared but otherwise doing OK on Wednesday morning. The animal was being checked for smoke inhalation at At Home Veterinary Hospital in Kahului.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at