The parents of a Hawaii boy who went missing nearly 20 years ago have been charged with murder after authorities “reopened the case and re-evaluated the evidence,” per the NY Daily News. The body of “Peter Boy” Kema, Jr. was never found and his case is one of Hawaii’s most well-known unsolved mysteries. Since the age of three months, Peter Kema, Jr. suffered abuse at his parents’ hands, which had been well-documented by Child Protective Services. Authorities have long suspected the boy’s parents in his 1997 disappearance. He was 6-years-old at the time, and until now, prosecutors said there hadn’t been enough evidence to charge them.
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Peter Kema, Sr. had told authorities that he took his son to Oahu and gave him to a longtime family friend named “Aunty Rose Makuakane” in an informal adoption. When police investigated his claim, they were unable to locate a woman as described by Kema or airline records indicating he had flown to the island to visit her. In the aftermath of his disappearance, Peter Boy became the face of a campaign for missing and abused children, which asked: “Where’s Peter Boy?”
The youngest of the Kema siblings, Devalynn, told a psychologist in 1998 that she saw Peter Boy dead in a box, but she also said her brother was alive in Honolulu. The girl, who is now an adult and known as Lina Acol, has spoken about the abuse that she, her siblings, and their mother suffered, including the “dirty lickins,” Kema, Sr. inflicted upon them when she was a child. She described this particular abuse to the psychologist as “punching, hitting and slapping.” She also recalled how “Peter Boy was tied up with chains and ropes.”
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Both mother and father denied any wrongdoing, but Lina Acol, who was only 5-years-old at the time of her brother’s disappearance, now has a son of her own and she hopes her mother will make a deal with prosecutors. Peter Boy’s siblings have also shared publicly their hope that their mother, Jaylin Kema, would turn on the father, who they believe killed their brother. Last year, the siblings made a public appeal to their estranged mother to “say something.”
A grand jury indicted Peter and Jaylin Kema on second-degree murder charges this week. Peter Kema, Sr. is being held on $500,000 bail “after being arrested Thursday on an unrelated traffic offense.” The mother’s bail has been set at $150,000. It’s not clear whether the parents have attorneys, or if the Hilo public defender’s office is representing them. Lina Acol and her siblings are the key witnesses in the case against the parents, which is why a judge has ordered Peter Kema, Sr. to stay away from them should he bail out of jail.
Proving a murder case against the parents won’t be easy.
“This (requires) proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is murder,” said defense attorney William Harrison. “And they’re gonna have a hard time with that.”
Former Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle tried a case in 2008 which landed the conviction of a suspected murderer, even though the body of the victim was never found, Hawaii News Now notes. Carlisle acknowledges it was a gamble, but he believes prosecutors can win the case against Peter Boy’s parents, primarily because a jury would find it reasonable that it was the parents’ duty to make sure their son was safe.
The years of abuse Peter Kema, Jr. suffered indicates that his parents didn’t get proper medical care for him. The indictments against the couple say they “intentionally or knowingly” caused his death due to the “multiple crimes of assault” and his “suffering from serious physical harm.”
“The key to this case is circumstantial evidence,” Carlisle said. “You prove that Peter Boy Kema is dead and gone. After 19 years that isn’t hard to do. He isn’t coming back.”
Defense attorneys will argue that just because a father is physically abusive, doesn’t mean he would kill his child.
“I think they’re going to have serious problems with this case,” said defense attorney Victor Bakke. “There’s no conclusive evidence the child is dead.”
Peter Kema, Sr. and his wife pleaded not guilty in court on Friday, and requested jury trials. If Jaylin refuses to accept a deal, many legal experts agree with those who have emotional ties to the Kema’s community, that the case will be an extremely difficult one for prosecutors.
What are your thoughts about Peter Boy’s parents being charged with murder nearly 20 years after his disappearance?
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