Kona woman hopes to raise awareness of domestic violence after her sister was killed by ex-boyfriend

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Alexus Fernandez will never forget discovering her sister’s lifeless body on New Year’s Day who was shot by her ex-boyfriend before he turned the gun on himself.

“It’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” she said.

Elizabeth Fernandez’s father initially found Garret Kaleohano, 43, dead in his daughter’s yard when he went to check on her. 

Fernandez, 50, who lived one house down from her sister in Kealakekua, ran over to check on Elizabeth after calling police. She had to break down the door as her dad had recently installed a deadbolt after Kaleohano hit her and accused her of cheating on Dec. 23.

Elizabeth also filed a temporary restraining order days before her death.

When Fernandez got in, she saw Elizabeth dead on the floor with a gunshot wound to her head. Fernandez said: “He shot her through the window.”


“My sister did what she was supposed to do,” Fernandez said. “She did what the system asked her to do and still, she was murdered.”

Fernandez said she never thought domestic violence would affect her family. Now, she hopes to prevent it from happening to others by raising awareness.

With the help of local nonprofits, Fernandez organized a domestic violence sign waving in Hilo this afternoon, which will take place on the lawn by Ross Dress for Less, located at 307 Makaala St., fronting Kanoelehua Avenue.

The event is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., there will be a vigil to honor those who were killed by domestic violence.

“I’m going to be there for all the unheard voices,” Fernandez said.


The sign-waving was organized by Michelle Kobayashi, a volunteer for Hope Services Hawai‘i and Going Home Hawai‘i, a nonprofit that helps men and women reintegrate into the community and workforce after being incarcerated.

Kobayashi said she organized the event after Fernandez asked if there was something they could do to bring awareness of domestic violence to East Hawai‘i.

While Domestic Violence Awareness month is in October, Kobayashi said, the issue should be discussed every month.

From left to right: Alexus Fernandez and Elizabeth Fernandez

This afternoon’s sign waving is an opportunity to show those victims of domestic violence that they’re not alone.

“A lot of people are victimized and a lot of them shut down and don’t want to speak up,” Kobayashi said, adding that showing up shows it’s OK to open up and talk about it.


“When you see a lot of people standing out there together it means something.”

Years ago, Kobayashi said she was also a domestic violence victim.

“I numbed my pain with drugs and got addicted. Pulling myself out of that rut was a struggle,” she said.

Now, Kobayashi is doing her part to serve her community. Through the nonprofits she volunteers with she does outreach to those living on the streets in downtown Hilo. She feeds the homeless, helps get them connected with Hope Services or helps connect them with resources to drug treatment.

Renee Rivera, co-director of the nonprofit He Ho‘omaka Hoo Ana O Puna, is partnering with Kobayashi to host the sign-waving.

“I think a sign waving helps but it gives us an opportunity to talk to the community and identify and talk to them and find out what we can do before they’re coming in with black eyes,” said Rivera, who is also a lecturer at Hawai‘i Community College on human services.

He Ho‘omaka Hoo Ana O Puna was founded two years ago to improve the quality of life for all women in the rural underserved community of Puna by providing comprehensive behavioral health services, including specialized therapy, licensed counseling and mentoring.

Rivera said a lot of the women she works with are experiencing homelessness or reentering the community after incarceration. A lot of them are victims of domestic violence.

Through the nonprofit, Rivera said the counseling helps women identify the root of their problems while the mentorship helps with goal setting and their future.

“Mentorship allows women to talk to other women. It’s building a community within a community,” she said.

Rivera is looking forward to the sign waving as it’s an opportunity to talk about domestic violence and how to help those who are suffering in silence.

“If we can save a life that’s my goal,” Rivera said.

Fernandez hopes the sign waving reaches those in need of help. She also encourages the younger generation to speak up if they find themselves in an abusive relationship.

Elizabeth is survived by her three children, ages 17, 15 and 13.

“She was the rock of this whole family. She cared so much,” Fernandez said. “My sister walked with the Lord. I believe she’s in heaven with God.”

If you or someone you love is affected by domestic violence, call the domestic violence 24-hour crisis hotline at 808-959-8864. More information on how to get help can be found here.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at
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