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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Peter Boy's sister said she saw body

By Mike Gordon and Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

Peter Boy Kema's sister told a psychologist nearly a year after he disappeared that she had seen the missing child's dead body on two occasions, according to a report contained in 2,000 pages of confidential documents released yesterday by the state Department of Human Services.

Lillian B. Koller, director of the state Department of Human Services, answers questions about the case of Peter Boy Kema and the decision to release 2,000 pages of confidential documents.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

The sister, whose name was blacked out in the documents, told a psychologist in June 1998 that she saw Peter Boy "dead in her father's car trunk." The girl, who was 5 years old at the time, also told psychologist Steven Choy that she saw "Peter Boy in a box 'dead' in her parents' closet and they took the box to Honolulu."

That chilling information, never before released to the public, also had been uncovered independently by Big Island police, who yesterday said they included it in their final report to the prosecutor's office five years ago. To date, no one has been arrested and there have been no indictments.

Human services director Lillian Koller released the documents yesterday in the hope they will help solve the case of the missing Big Island child. Koller, who has not reviewed all of the documents, said there was "tremendous value" in releasing them. Yesterday's release followed the April release of 23 pages of Peter Boy documents.

"From what I've seen in the records, there is so much contradictory information that someone is not telling the truth," Koller said.

In releasing the documents, Koller said she was answering repeated requests for information. Lawmakers and the media questioned the boy's fate ever since his case became public in April 1998, but confidentiality laws prevented disclosure. Rule changes in December allowed Koller to release the documents.

Disclosure was long overdue, she said.

"The secrecy for eight years has not resulted in anything beneficial in this case," Koller said. "There has been no justice for this boy. There have been no lessons learned."

The department first got involved with the Kema family shortly after Peter Boy was born, placing the infant and two older siblings into foster custody after reports of child abuse. By October 1995, the Family Court in Hilo decided the family could be reunited and closed the case.

He disappeared in 1997

Peter Boy disappeared sometime in the spring or summer of 1997. He would have turned 6 that May but what happened that year is a mystery that has troubled Hawai'i residents for years.

TOP: Peter Kema Sr. in a police mug shot from November 2004. MIDDLE: Jaylin Kema in a police mug shot from last month. ABOVE: Peter Boy Kema at a family picnic.
His father, Peter Kema Sr., told authorities that he gave the boy to a longtime family friend during a trip to O'ahu that summer, a woman he called Auntie Rose Makuakane. Among the documents released yesterday was a copy of the elder Kema's handwritten note granting the woman custody of his son:

"To whom it may concern: I Peter Kema Sr. do give up all parental rights for my son Peter Kema Jr. to my Aunty Rose Makuakane. I am seeking the best care for my son at this time. I am unable to care for his welfare and I will know his needs will be met."

Police have never been able to confirm the woman exists.

It was not until January 1998 that the boy's mother, Jaylin Kema, filed a missing person's report with Hilo police.

Neither Peter nor Jaylin Kema could be reached for comment on the latest developments in the case.

Attempts to reach Steven Strauss, Peter Kema Sr.'s court-appointed lawyer, were unsuccessful.

Some of the information released yesterday is not new but provides greater clarity and details including:

• Accounts of the cruelty Peter Boy endured, including being punched, slapped and tied up with ropes and chains by his father as well as being placed naked in a rubbish can.

• Details about the potential for violence by the child's quick-tempered father.

• Information explaining why it took Big Island social workers more than two months to investigate allegations that Peter Boy had been abused in the weeks just before he vanished.

• The documents also shed light on when police were told that Peter Boy was missing.

Permanently taking the children away from the Kemas was discussed as early as 1992, according to one of the documents released.

One memo cautions social workers new to the case that it would be difficult.

"The parents are emotional adolescents, focused solely on their own needs, and whining about how unfair the system and life has been to them," the memo said.

"My concern is that the assigned worker will get caught up in the 'poor me syndrome' of the parents, and lose sight of the real victims here," the memo said.

The sister's statements that she had seen Peter Boy's body were part of a psychological evaluation of the entire family. It was done after human services officials placed the girl and two older siblings into foster custody. The evaluation summary was done by Choy, a clinical psychologist at the Kapi'olani Child Protection Center, to identify several concerns.

Forced to eat 'doo doo'

Choy, who did not return calls for comment yesterday, said the girl offered the information unsolicited, adding that there was no direct questioning regarding Peter Boy. He also concluded that there was no obvious reason to discount her statement.

Psychologist Steven Choy's notes indicate what a sister of Peter Boy told the psychologist during an interview in June 1998.
But he noted that the girl also said she thought her brother was alive in Honolulu. Choy also noted her understanding of death was consistent with the girl's age and could lead her to believe that "a person can become alive again after that person died."

The girl told the psychologist that both Peter Boy and her mother often received "dirty lickings" from Peter Sr. She described "dirty lickings" as punching, hitting and slapping. The boy also was placed inside a rubbish can without any clothes and that he was forced to eat "doo doo," the documents said.

She also reported he was tied up with chains and ropes.

Choy did not think the elder Kema could control his anger and doubted if Peter Boy's parents could provide "a non-abusive, stable and nurturing environment" for the children.

Choy described the elder Kema as "an individual with very poor overall parenting abilities as well as poor anger management and a low tolerance for frustration."

One of the key documents released may help the public understand discrepancies between what human services officials and police have said about the date that Peter Boy was considered missing.

Human services officials have long maintained they told police he was missing in June 1997. Police, however, have said no one filed an official missing persons report until January 1998 when they first visited the Kema home outside Hilo.

Yesterday's release included a case summary of alleged abuse received on April 4, 1997, and the actions taken. It did not receive high priority "given that there was no indication of actual harm, and at that time, there was no suspicion of the child being missing."

Grandparents ignored

The documents also show the investigation might have been delayed by staff shortages and high case loads.

The parents of Peter Boy Kema, Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema, appeared at a press conference in Hilo in 1998.

Advertiser library photo

On June 17, 1997, the case was assigned to a social worker and a report on the case was sent to Hilo police.

"Given the information received by (DHS) in August that the police would be unable to accept a missing persons report from a non-family source, including CPS, efforts were made to encourage the family to make their own report," the synopsis stated. "Those efforts were not successful until January 1998."

The document is difficult to understand completely because individuals involved have been redacted. But it is clear that human services officials were looking for the boy.

The sister's account of seeing Peter Boy dead did not surprise his maternal grandmother, Yolanda Acol, who is raising the girl in Kona. Acol said yesterday that she has heard similar details from her granddaughter and finds them credible.

Acol said she and her husband, James, questioned the way police and Department of Human Services handled the case.

"All the time we were questioning, but yet we were told let the police do their job," she said. "My husband questioned a lot, and the officers told him let them do their job."

Koller gave Big Island police their own unredacted copy of the entire 2,000 pages in April, but Lt. Randall Medeiros said yesterday that detectives already knew about the statements that Peter Boy was dead.

"It is contained in our report, which we sent to the prosecutor's office," said Medeiros, who oversees the Criminal Investigation Section. "The viability of that statement would be best addressed by the prosecutor assigned to the case."

Big Island prosecutors involved in the case did not return phone calls for comment yesterday, but they too were given their own unredacted copies in April.

Medeiros said it would be up to a jury to decide if Peter Boy's sister was too young at the time to be a credible witness.

But Koller yesterday thought the child's information had value.

"If that information could be recalled now, it would be incredibly helpful," she said.

She said human services officials on the Big Island had cooperated with authorities during the investigation, a fact echoed by Medeiros.

"They had no reason not to cooperate," Koller said.

State Rep. Dennis Arakaki, D-30th (Moanalua, Kalihi Valley, 'Alewa), who has pushed for the release of the documents for years, said the records confirm Peter Boy suffered horrific abuse.

"I continue to wonder why nothing was done in terms of a criminal investigation or prosecution," he said.

Arakaki said everyone should speak up if child abuse is suspected.

"Obviously, there was no one speaking up for him and, if they were, that fell on deaf ears," Arakaki said.

Staff writers Kevin Dayton, Derrick DePledge and Mike Leidemann contributed to this report.