20100821_loc_daughterThey were always together. Mother and daughter.

Kristine and Saundra Cass enjoyed each other's company in the rare kind of way that other parents envy.

"They were so close. They did so much together," said Penelope Bortman, whose daughter was best friends with Saundra.

Bortman said her daughter once asked her pointedly, "Why can't we be like that?"

Kristine Cass, 46, and Saundra, 13, were fatally shot yesterday in a double murder-suicide in their Makiki home. Friends and neighbors of the two are left mourning the loss of a mother and daughter - described as happy, outgoing and kind - whose worlds revolved around each other.

"At least they're together," Bortman said. "They're looking down on us. We've got to believe that."

Cass, a marketing consultant at Spotlight Hawaii Publishing in Kakaako, was from Canada and had parents and siblings there.

Linda Tsai, one of Cass' good friends, said Cass "was an absolutely beautiful person, inside and out."

"She was 100 percent dedicated to her daughter and living a good life and setting a good example."

When she was younger, Cass was a model and actress, doing work in Japan and France, Tsai said. Cass lived in Texas for several years, where Saundra was born, before moving to the islands.

Saundra, an only child, attended Sacred Hearts Academy, where she started the eighth grade on Monday.

The girl had been at the school since sixth grade, and Head of School Betty White said she was a high achiever and adored by teachers and students alike.

She once bemoaned getting a B-plus.

"She stood out in a crowd," White said. "She was so well liked. She was kind to everybody, just a super kid."

Though Sacred Hearts did not hold classes yesterday because of Admission Day, Saundra was planning to go to the school to get her picture taken for the yearbook.

Bortman and her daughter, Bond, were supposed to pick up Saundra, and the two children were going to get their photos taken and then head to the movies.

Bortman said she drove up to Saundra's house at about 10 a.m. yesterday and that she and her daughter saw yellow police tape surrounding it.

When they found out what happened, Bortman's daughter burst into tears.

"It can't be real," she kept repeating.

Bortman described Saundra as an outgoing child who often erupted into song as a way of expressing her joy. "Funny, kind, gentle. Always a smile on her face. She was one of the happiest people I've ever met," Bortman said.

Saundra was active in student government at Sacred Hearts. But, White said, "drama was her bag."

In 2008 Saundra played the role of Marta in a production of "The Sound of Music" at Saint Louis School.

Saint Louis drama director Kyle Kakuno said he remembers Cass as a doting mother and Saundra as a conscientious, happy kid who looked out for the younger children in the production.

"She was one of those who was always smiling," Kakuno said. "She really enjoyed the stage."


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