Ex-cop, murderer dies in prison

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A former Big Island police sergeant serving a life sentence for the 1992 kidnapping and murder of his wife died in prison.


A former Big Island police sergeant serving a life sentence for the 1992 kidnapping and murder of his wife died in prison.

Kenneth Wayne Mathison died Sunday at Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu, three days shy of his 64th birthday, the state Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

Foul play is not suspected. No official cause of death was given but a source said Mathison was in hospice care.

It took a jury less than four hours on Nov. 22, 1995, to convict Mathison of kidnapping and murdering his wife, Yvonne, a nurse at Hilo Medical Center and hostess at Ken’s House of Pancakes. He was sentenced March 1, 1996, to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the murder and 20 years for the kidnapping, with both sentences to run concurrently.

Yvonne Mathison died Nov. 27, 1992, after being bludgeoned with a pipe and run over by a van. Mathison was found cradling his wife’s bloody body and told fellow officers he accidentally ran her over with the family van.

The group Citizens for Justice alleged police were covering up Kenneth Mathison’s crime, which was originally classified as a traffic accident. It took three years for the case to go to trial.

The case was prosecuted by then-Deputy Attorney General Kurt Spohn, who told jurors Mathison killed his wife to collect a $500,000 insurance policy. The state’s star witness was noted forensic pathologist Dr. Henry Lee, who testified blood spatter patterns proved Yvonne Mathison’s death wasn’t an accident.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority in 2009 set Mathison’s minimum prison terms at 90 years for the murder conviction and 20 years for the kidnapping conviction.

Mathison sued the state unsuccessfully in 2010 in an attempt to disqualify the parole board. Then-Kona Circuit Judge Elizabeth Strance dismissed without a hearing Mathison’s motion to unseat the parole board as “patently frivolous.”

He sued the state again in 2012 for reconsideration of the mandatory minimum terms on both convictions, and this time was granted a new hearing before the parole board.

The panel on Nov. 21, 2013, reduced Mathison’s mandatory minimum sentence to life in prison to 25 years on the murder conviction, which meant he would have been eligible for parole on Nov. 7, 2020. The minimum sentence of 20 years on the kidnapping conviction remained unchanged.

The parole board’s reduction of Mathison’s minimum sentence prompted shock, outrage and disappointment.


A statement from Yvonne Mathison’s family at that time expressed that disappointment, saying they would “continue to fight for the memory of Yvonne at every opportunity.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. Laurence Smith February 12, 2018 8:46 pm

    Mathison’s story made no sense. If his wife bolted out of the van you would not get back in the van to catch her as you would merely run. In the end karma caught up to him and justice was served. With the half a million payout he was planning on getting he would have lived like a king on that island. He was not patient in his plot to kill her as he had just taken out the insurance policy a few months before he staged the accident. But he probably saw a great opportunity when the rain started to pour. He also made the mistake of saying they had be arguing prior.

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