Keala Leong: On the path to hope, haunted by a dark past

Family says he was helping troubled youth; will continue his legacy

Published  9:39 PM HST Feb 04, 2013
HONOLULU -

"I feel like if I sit back and don't do something about it -- another life might be lost," said Karisa Leong.

"I watched him struggle. And though he wasn't locked up physically, he was locked up inside," she said.

Four days ago, in the driver's seat, she watched, as her husband ended his life.

"He grabbed my arm, flew it back at me, opened the door and jumped out," she said.

"I know he never forgave himself for what happened years ago," said Leong's mother-in-law, Tracey Stein who lives in California.

It was 1998.

Keala Leong was with a group of young men who tried to break into a cabin at the Waianae Army Recreational Center.

Roberto Miguel and Bryson Jose were later convicted of murder for killing helicopter pilot John Latchum.

John's family witnessed the horror of his death.

"He'll never get to walk his daughter down the aisle. He'll never get to watch his son go on his first date or teach him how to drive a car. There are a lot of nevers in our lives," said Wendy Latchum in 2000.

"He was in the wrong place, with the wrong people and at the wrong time," said Leong.

Karisa maintains her husband was guilty of running with the wrong crowd, but watched that move haunt him for the rest of his life.

Two years ago, still incarcerated, Leong wrote on MySpace:  "This world is full of suffering and pain, every day I decide if I'm staying."

When he finally got out in March 2012, Karisa said her husband dealt with constant rejection and lack of support.

Despite that, she said they were planning to start a program or foundation to help troubled youth.

She said Keala helped her son find a better path and graduate from school.

They were planning to also find better ways to help convicted felons transition back into society.

"I believe they need extra support," she said.

It would be support for those who might otherwise be forgotten, for those who might otherwise fail again, from a man who knew how heavy a price he had to pay.

"I felt like he's finally at peace. He's finally at peace," said Leong.

There is a fundraiser to help Keala's family on youcaring.com.

The family has also decided to hold a public funeral on Saturday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m. at the Windward Baptist Church.

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