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Neighbors tried to intervene as teacher allegedly killed ex-wife

Residents in a quiet West Hills neighborhood came to the aid Michelle Kane, whose estranged husband, Michael, an elementary school educator, is being sought in her death.

June 16, 2013|By Kim Christensen, Los Angeles Times
  • Neighbors walk past a home in the 7100 block of Deveron Ridge Road in West Hills, where a woman was stabbed to death early Saturday. Her estranged husband is being sought.
Neighbors walk past a home in the 7100 block of Deveron Ridge Road in West… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles police continued to search Sunday for a 46-year-old elementary school teacher who they said stabbed his estranged wife and left her to die on a quiet residential street in West Hills as neighbors rushed to her side.

Michael Rodney Kane forced his way into a home in the 7100 block of Deveron Ridge Road, where his wife, Michelle Ann Kane, 43, was staying with friends after he acted erratically, vandalized his family's house and violated a temporary restraining order, police said Sunday.

After scuffling with the homeowner and cutting the man's hand with a knife, Kane allegedly stabbed his estranged wife multiple times about 7:50 a.m. Saturday before she collapsed in the street, police said.

Neighbors who heard the commotion stepped outside to find the woman on the pavement, mortally wounded.

"My son and my wife tried to stop the bleeding," said Loni Specter, 63, who lives next door to where Kane and her children were staying. "Both of them did what they could, but she was pretty much dead.... It was a nightmare."

Kane's two young children, and two from the family with whom they were staying, hid in a bathroom during the attack, neighbor Roy Bernard said the homeowners told him. The wife of the injured man huddled with them, he said.

"She said, 'No noise. No talking. Stay quiet,'" Bernard said.

The woman's husband, who knew both of the Kanes, told Bernard that he at first thought he could talk Michael Kane out of doing anything rash and then shouted to Michelle Kane to "run as fast as you can out the front door and don't stop," as he fought with him, Bernard said.

"Unfortunately, her husband caught her and he butchered her," he said. "It's a tragedy."

Michelle Kane was pronounced dead at the scene in the hilly, well-kept neighborhood of mostly 1960s tract homes, many of them occupied by their original owners. No one was home Sunday at the house where the killing occurred.

Hours earlier, Michelle Kane, a paralegal and notary public, had gone to the Los Angeles Police Department's Topanga Station to report that her estranged husband had vandalized the home they once shared and had violated a temporary restraining order she had obtained, Sgt. Al Flores said Sunday.

"She came in here the night before and said that they were going through a divorce and that she was concerned, that she was worried," Flores said.

Among other things, Michelle Kane told police that her estranged husband had been uncharacteristically irrational lately and was using drugs, Flores said.

He said one of the station's officers spent more than an hour with Michelle Kane that night. Flores said he could not discuss specifics of their conversation because of the pending investigation, but he defended the LAPD's handling of the situation and said it underscores the difficulties of dealing with domestic violence.

"I believe that everything that we could possibly do for her was done," Flores said.

It was unclear Sunday what triggered the attack or when the couple had split.

In June 2012, they filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding to get out from under their debts, including $166,000 owed to credit card companies, court records show. The bankruptcy was discharged three months later, giving the couple a fresh financial start.

In a declaration, the Kanes said their problems stemmed from the 2002 purchase of a new West Hills home that required "landscaping, appliances and various other improvements" paid for with credit cards. When the housing market crashed, it also doomed their plan to tap their home equity to pay the bills, they wrote.

"We didn't use the cards to buy expensive toys or take extravagant trips around the world," they wrote. "The charges were for our general living expenses, such as mortgage payments, auto payments, food, insurance and utilities."

Michael Kane, a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, said he had also spent "a significant amount" on school supplies, and gifts to "incentivize" his students.

"And because I taught in an underprivileged area, I even bought some of the students clothing when I noticed some students coming to class wearing the same thing every day," he wrote.

Police described Kane as 5 feet 10 and 175 pounds. He was last seen driving a silver, gray or mint green 1999 Chrysler 300M with California license plate 4HGP487.

kim.christensen@latimes.com

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