Landlords should keep distance after eviction, says man who served notice to Diamond Head suspect

Tragedy at Diamond Head

The suspect in yesterday’s attack and fire, Jerry Hanel, was in the process of being evicted. Always Investigating spoke to the man who served the summons, who said Hanel did not react violently or suspiciously to him. But he says the eviction process can be emotional times in which landlords themselves should steer clear of tenants.

On Jan. 15, an attorney for the property owner at 3015 Hibiscus Drive filed in court for an ejectment of Jerry Hanel; an ejectment is a type of eviction when there’s no actual lease in place. Hanel, a longtime caretaker there, had refused to vacate the premises despite repeated demands to leave, according to the court filing.

The lawyer hired Daniel Toyama, a civil process server, to deliver the summons. Toyama headed there the next day, Jan. 16.

“I serve all around that area, it’s the Gold Coast,” Toyama said, adding he expected to trouble there. “It’s very expensive places.”

“I knocked on the door and he (Hanel) didn’t open the door but he said, ‘What are you looking for, who are you looking for?’ So I said, ‘Jerry Hanel.’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m him.’ I said, ‘OK so I just had to give the court papers.’ He asked what; I told him this is for this house and things of that nature. So he said, ‘Just slip it under the door.’ So I did. I never did see him.”

KHON2 asked, did Hanel say anything else to Toyama after he slipped the eviction under the door?

“No,” Toyama said. “No nothing.”

A court hearing on the ejectment filing would have been this coming Friday.

Witnesses and bystanders tell us the elderly owner had been attacked by Hanel on Sunday morning, possibly with the same three-pronged garden tool with which he also attacked another woman. That second victim, a woman in her 50s, was able to call 911. She was aided by Good Samaritans and first responders and transported to The Queen’s Medical Center in serious condition. She was released Monday.

The landlady is presumed to be the adult female unaccounted for in the remains of the home. The suspect is presumed to be there, too.

It’s not yet clear whether the owner had approached Hanel on Sunday, or if he had sought her out prior to the attack.

KHON2 asked Toyama: What do you recommend to other property owners going forward when they’ve already filed an eviction through the proper means?

“Just leave everything alone, let the courts handle it,” Toyama said. “Because I will serve them, or one way or another it will be served, and then go to court, and once the person goes to court the bailiff’s are over there to keep the peace within the courthouse, and the judge is not going to be very tolerant of any kind of emotion. Let the courts handle it and just stay away.”

As to why state sheriffs handle just a fraction of all service of court notices: “The sheriffs, they don’t have the bodies to do it.

Oahu alone needs about 10,000 civil process documents served every year. There are more than 300 civil process servers statewide and they handle most of that load.

KHON2 asked, at what point should a landlord be enlisting the service of a sheriff’s deputy versus the independent process servers?

“They’ll leave it up to the attorney, and basically the attorney will give it to me,” Toyama explained. “Now I have to make a decision if this person or persons there are kind of irritated agitated or whatever, that I cannot physically handle them, then I will request sheriffs.”

KHON2 asked Toyama: Did the attorney who assigned you to this case, or yourself, have any reason to believe that violence was a possibility at this service of Jerry Hanel?

“No because he would have told me if it was,” Toyama said. “He (the attorney) was kind of surprised because he was telling me basically if he had known anything he would have told me, but nobody knew anything.”

In other Always Investigating follow-ups to the Sunday incident, we overlaid a bird’s-eye photo of the destroyed home lots with Honolulu tax maps and calculated a staggering financial loss there.

The homes that are completely destroyed add up to about $11 million just in tax assessed valuation. That’s not including contents and furnishings, automobiles and other possessions. Properties showing partial destruction are assessed at another $3.5 million. It all pales in comparison to the priceless value of the lives lost, and the incalculable cost of starting over for an entire neighborhood of displaced families.

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