Dateline: Secrets Uncovered - What happened to Shirlene Wakisaka?

Shirlene Wakisaka
Shirlene Wakisaka pictured with her two daughters and former husband (Image via Yahoo!)

In the afternoon hours of April 5, 2000, first responders arrived at the residence of Kenneth and Shirlene Wakisaka a second time after the latter reportedly choked and collapsed.

That same morning, Shirlene, a mother of two loving daughters, had allegedly consumed a lethal dose of sleeping pills with beer. She was then rushed to the hospital where she died five days later.

The incident was initially ruled an attempted suicide until an autposy performed two years later, against her husband Kenneth's wishes, revealed that Shirlene was strangled. Kenneth Wakisaka was subsequently convicted and sent to prison, but his conviction was reversed not long after.


An upcoming episode of Dateline: Secrets Uncovered, titled The Vow, will re-examine Shirlene Wakisaka's death this Wednesday, February 1, on Oxygen at 8.00 pm ET. The synopsis reads as:

"Two tenacious sisters are determined to fulfill a promise to investigate the mystery surrounding their mother's death."

Shirlene Wakisaka's husband became irate and started asking weird questions at the mention of a possible autopsy

On the afternoon of April 5, 2000, when first responders arrived at the Wakisaka residence, Shirlene Wakisaka reportedly appeared to be choking and collapsed. They also noticed "some redness around her neck area" on both sides and that her neck was "reddish colored and mottled." Moreover, her body color was blue around her lips which was either caused due to a lack of oxygen or a heart attack.

Shirlene, 52, was examined at their residence and immediately rushed to St. Francis Medical Center West, where she died on April 10 after being taken off life support. Initially, authorities suspected that she died of a possible drug overdose, given her husband Kenneth's claims from earlier that day alleging she had consumed a lethal amount of sleeping pills with beer that morning.


However, Tiffany and Tammy, Shirlene's daughters from a previous marriage who had been skeptical from the beginning, claimed to have discovered two pill bottles in the Wakisakas' backyard, something that investigators who had already conducted a thorough search claimed wasn't present in the backyard during the investigation.

On the day of Shirlene Wakisaka's death, when her husband Kenneth was informed about a possible autopsy, he became irate, insisting that the deceased died a natural death. He also started asking strange questions about whether an autopsy would indicate that Shirlene had been strangled.

An autopsy eventually confirmed that Shirlene Wakisaka died as a result of strangulation

A delayed autopsy was performed on April 11, 2002, which showed that Shirlene Wakisaka had been strangled. A doctor then confirmed that she died as a result of "ligature strangulation," after finding a diagonal bruise on the right side of Shirlene's neck, just below the jaw line, categorizing the bruising as a ligature mark.


Reports stated that the victim's neck tissue was bruised, and that there was hemorrhaging found in her right eye, suggesting that there had been pressure on the blood vessels of Shirlene's head and neck. In conclusion, the results proved that that she did not die of a heart attack and that the amount of drugs in her system was not lethal.

Moreover, a year after Shirlene Wakisaka's death, her daughters discovered that their step-father had been abusive towards their mother. Tammy reportedly stated that "[Shirlene] let us know she was afraid for her life and, if anything happened to her, to please investigate."

All evidence combined when presented in front of a grand jury, Kenneth Wakisaka was found guilty of second-degree murder during a 2002 trial, receiving a life sentence with parole. His conviction, however, was reversed not long after.

Oxygen's Dateline: Secrets Uncovered airs with an all-new episode on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

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Edited by Abhipsa Choudhury
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