Woman killed in West Hills talked to LAPD about estranged husband

The day before Michelle Kane was slain, Los Angeles police officers took two reports from her regarding her estranged husband, officials said.

In the first report, concerning a violation of a temporary restraining order, officers documented "everything that occurred, including taking tape-recorded statements," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

As part of that first interview with police, Michelle Kane provided officers with a tape recording of hers and reported an incident that she said took place Thursday outside the Topanga Area station, in which her estranged husband, Michael Kane, made verbal threats toward her as they were involved in a prearranged custody exchange.

Officers had advised her not to go back to her house and said to immediately call 911 if she felt threatened, Smith said.

LAPD officials say they did what they could to protect Michelle Kane, who investigators say was hunted down by her estranged husband at a friend's home and stabbed to death on a quiet West Hills street.

Officers with the Topanga Area station took two reports five hours apart in which the 43-year-old mother said Michael Kane had broken the law, first by violating a temporary restraining order and then by vandalizing her home, officials said.

Several hours after the initial report, officers responded to Michelle Kane’s home after a report that someone had smashed out windows. LAPD officers searched the location but found no one, Smith said. They also canvassed the neighborhood in an effort to locate a suspect, Smith said.

Kane and her neighbors were interviewed by police; their statements were incorporated in a felony vandalism report. Police said they were unaware of any further contacts until the slaying.

Smith said officers urged Kane to get out of her home and immediately call 911 if she encountered her husband, a Tarzana elementary school teacher.

In court documents seeking the restraining order, Michelle Kane said her husband "has a long history of drug abuse" and that she suspected he "has an undiagnosed bipolar disorder."

She said he had used heroin and methamphetamine in the past, and had been hospitalized in May "due to his suicidal thoughts brought on by what I believe to have been a combination of stress and drug use."

According to investigators, Michelle Kane sought refuge with her two small children at the home of friends in West Hills. Michael Kane found out where she was staying, police said, and on Saturday morning pushed his way into the home. 

Michelle Kane's friend tried unsuccessfully to restrain Michael Kane as the woman hid in a bathroom with her two children. Michelle Kane ran out of the house, but Michael Kane caught up to her and killed her, police said.

Michael Kane drove off before police arrived, touching off a manhunt that lasted until he was arrested early Monday morning at a motel in Joshua Tree. He is scheduled to be arraigned on murder charges Wednesday.

"We make recommendations for shelter or alternative living arrangements to keep people safe. In this case, we also searched the house and the neighborhood looking for the suspect," Smith said. "But, tragically, incidents like this sometimes occur.”

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com