Saturday, March 13, 1999

Broken trust, broken lives


After a tragic death,
a husband describes a warm,
caring wife and a
happy marriage

By Christine Donnelly


Gerard Jervis is the rich one, the powerful one, the well-known one. So the events of the past days have been filtered through him: his illicit tryst, his drug overdose, his pain.

Info Box But it's Scott Kitaoka whose wife is dead. Scott Kitaoka whose grief only deepens amid public descriptions of her desperate last days, as if all there was to know about the woman he loved was that she had a fling with her boss and apparently killed herself over it.

"There's so much more to her, to us, to our families," Scott Kitaoka said, explaining why despite his "extremely private" nature he talked to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin so he could memorialize his wife, Rene Ojiri Kitaoka.

"She's dead. She can't tell her side now, so I have to do it," he said. "I've gotten so many ... condolences, they all mention her smile, how fair she was in her work. People should know that."

Both Rene and Scott Kitaoka grew up in Hawaii; she on Maui and he in Honolulu. Both went to the mainland for college. She graduated from Georgetown University Law School in 1984, he from the University of Colorado-Boulder a year later.

After college, they returned to the islands to work and were introduced by mutual friends about nine years ago, marrying in 1993.

Although both had demanding careers -- she as a lawyer for Bishop Estate, he as an electrical contractor -- they cherished their free time together, especially "outdoors stuff" such as boating and fishing in Kaneohe Bay, Scott Kitaoka recalled. They got a much-loved puppy for Christmas last year. They hoped to have children too.

"I'd been the happiest person in the world until last week," he said. "Now, it's all gone."

The couple returned from a "really great" Canada ski vacation just a day or so before Rene Kitaoka's ill-fated assignation with Bishop trustee Jervis, with whom she worked closely as a lawyer for Kamehameha Investment Corp., a subsidiary of Bishop Estate.

On the night of March 2, Rene Kitaoka, 39, and Jervis, 50, were kicked out of the Hawaii Prince Hotel by a security guard who caught them in a compromising position in a men's restroom. The next afternoon, Scott Kitaoka, 36, came home to find his wife dead of apparent carbon-monoxide poisoning, the car running in their enclosed Kaneohe garage.

She left no note and since he was unaware at that point of the Waikiki incident "it was many, many days before I knew why" she took her own life, Scott Kitaoka said. "Now I know," saying there was nothing he knew of besides the Jervis incident that could have contributed.

Although aware of other media reports that his wife and Jervis had a long affair, Scott Kitaoka said he had no inkling of any such relationship.

"I would certainly like to hope it was a one-time mistake, but it doesn't really matter now," he said. Likewise, he doesn't want to know explicit details about the March 2 tryst and hopes the media will back off.

"Whatever happened, it's done, over. I don't care to know anymore" he said, his voice choked with emotion.

Kitaoka declined to even discuss Jervis, who took an overdose of sleeping pills Thursday but is expected to recover.

The widower is relying heavily on friends and family to help him through his grief. Among the things that hurt the most is believing he would have forgiven his wife no matter what, and not getting the chance to prove it.

"It did not have to end this way," Scott Kitaoka said through tears. "Nothing will ever diminish the love I have for her and how much I miss her."

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