Woman dies in shooting


POSTED: Monday, April 13, 2009

Gunshots shattered the calm on Easter Sunday when a 70-year-old man allegedly opened fire at his neighbor in a public housing complex, killing the 54-year-old woman in an apparent case of unrequited affection.

Residents identified the victim as Clare Silva, president of the Punchbowl Homes Residents Association. They also identified the suspect as Mel Yoshida, 70, a seventh-floor resident of the same complex.

Police arrested Yoshida shortly after noon on suspicion of second-degree murder.

Residents were shocked by the killing at Punchbowl Homes, a federally funded low-income public housing facility for senior citizens and disabled residents.

About 160 residents live at the usually quiet, seven-story building, mauka of H-1 freeway and Ewa of Ward Avenue.

Honolulu police Lt. Bill Kato said that Yoshida knocked on Silva's first-floor apartment door at 11:02 a.m. and argued with her before pulling out a handgun and shooting her.

There were no clear signs of a struggle. Kato could not immediately say what the argument was about or whether the murder weapon was recovered.

Yoshida met arriving officers and directed them to the crime scene, he said.

Silva was a grandmother of three and had a daughter in the Navy in Mississippi.

Friends of Silva said she was an active part of the building community, opening up a thrift store and snack shop and organizing community events, such as the complex's Easter lunch on Saturday.

Residents were less surprised by Yoshida's attack, describing him as “;arrogant”; and a “;troubled man”; who had lost his wife a year ago. Yoshida pushed, grabbed or swore at residents, they said.

Gina Alapa, vice president of the Punchbowl Homes Association, said she heard four gunshots from her fifth-floor apartment before getting a phone call about the attack. “;This man is a stalker,”; she said. “;He's trying to get girls. He explicitly told her he wants to have sex with her.”;

Dorothy Wheeler, another friend of Silva's, said Silva had declined an intimate relationship with Yoshida.

He was lonely and had a lot of repressed feelings, she said. Silva also had the same name as Yoshida's dead wife. “;Clare was like a match that you'd put to dry wood,”; she said. “;Her kindness and her warmth just made him fall in love with her.”;

Friends said Yoshida tried to attack Silva in her apartment on Friday. Wheeler recalled Silva telling her, “;He really scared me, and I told him to get out.”;

Before the shooting, Julin Zhang, 74, who lives next door to Silva, heard her talking to someone.

“;I just heard the lady saying, 'What are you doing?'”; she said. She was not alarmed because Silva often was with people, but after finishing her laundry in the bathroom, she went to check on her.

She went outside and saw Silva's apartment door open with Silva inside, lying motionless surrounded by blood. She never heard the gunshots.

From the walkway, Zhang saw Yoshida at the bus stop fronting the residence and called out to him for help.

“;He came and he told me call police,”; she said, not knowing that he would become the murder suspect.

“;I feel very scared,”; she said after Yoshida was arrested. “;It's not safe to live here.”;