“I was so impressed with his candor and his willingness to go on camera and say what he did because I can tell you right now a lot of families involved with this [will] really respect that,” Levasseur said.
In Investigation Discovery’s series Breaking Homicide, former police detective Derrick Levasseur and forensic psychologist Kris Mohandie dive into homicide cases that have gone decades unsolved and work to bring the victim’s families some closure on what exactly happened to their loved one.
The pair sat down with The Hollywood Reporter In Studio to discuss how their series came about, working with former Honolulu mayor Peter Carlisle on The Honolulu Strangler case and how to deal with cases that are more “personal.”
After working together on the Investigation Discovery series Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence, Levasseaur approached Mohandie about a case that affected his hometown in the late 1980s involving seven-year-old Michelle Norris who went missing and was found dead four days later.
“Derrick said, ‘I have a case that you absolutely have to see,’ and it was the Michelle Norris case,” Mohandie said. “So even before this show was even conceived, it was already on Derrick’s mind and both of us have a commitment to doing cases that speak to the average person’s experience, as opposed to something that’s some super high profile, ‘celebrity-type’ case, if you will, and what ended up happening after the O.J. series rolled out was a number of people reaching out to us and that led us to start taking in cases that viewers were experiencing that they had unresolved.”
One case in particular that resonated with Levasseur and Mohandie was The Honolulu Strangler, who sexually assaulted and murdered five women in Honolulu in 1985 and 1986. “It’s the first and, I believe, only serial homicide case in Hawaii. There may have been another one but this is kind of the first one,” Mohandie told THR. “It was unsolved and it affected that community significantly.”
The two worked with Carlisle, a former prosecuting attorney and mayor of Honolulu, on the case and explained to THR how they came to a conclusion.
“We wanted the answers to certain hard questions,” Levasseaur said. “And when we asked the big question, ‘Do you think this individual did it?’ [Carlisle] looked us right in the face and said, ‘Yes.’ You could see the emotion he felt from that, knowing that he wasn’t able to really put the nail in the coffin, so to speak. But I was so impressed with his candor and his willingness to go on camera, and say what he did because I can tell you right now a lot of families involved with this… I think they’ll really respect that.”
Mohandie also spoke on when cases can get personal, like the Michelle Norris case, and how empathizing with the experiences should enhance your objectivity.
“This is a human being who meant something to all these people who should not be forgotten and we owe it to the community and especially to this family to get answers, so to make it personal means I’m not going to distance myself from my responsibility to do the best job that I can and I’m not interested in getting it wrong.”
Breaking Homicide airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Investigation Discovery.