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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, June 13, 2005

Peter Boy's mom not 'bad guy,' lawyer says

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Big Island attorney who represents the mother of Peter Boy Kema said nothing in the missing child's recently opened confidential case implicates his client in any crime.

Jaylin Kema

Peter Kema Sr.

Peter Boy

Harry Eliason said the child's mother, Jaylin Kema, is a victim of "guilt by association."

"There is no allegation that my client did anything wrong," Eliason said last week. "Somehow or another, it's implied that mom did something. There is not one piece of evidence to indicate mom did anything harmful to that child."

Jaylin Kema was troubled by the state Department of Human Services' recent release of 2,000 pages of records involving Peter Boy because it reopened old wounds, Eliason said.

But the disclosure that her youngest child told a psychologist that she saw Peter Boy's dead body was both disturbing and a surprise, Eliason said.

"I will tell you that it is not something Jaylin knew," Eliason said. "This is something that the investigators knew. It wasn't something she knew until she read it in the newspaper."

Peter Boy disappeared in the spring or summer of 1997. He would have turned 6 that May.

Neither Big Island police nor prosecutors have identified anyone by name as a suspect in the case, which was reclassified from a missing person case to a murder investigation in 2000.

The child's father, Peter Kema Sr., has maintained that he gave the boy away to a family friend in August 1997 during a trip to O'ahu. But police have never been able to prove that the family friend exists.

"The evidence would indicate it is the father," Eliason said. "The authorities are trying to prove that and they haven't been able to do that because if they could, they would have indicted him a long time ago."

Peter Kema Sr., 34, is believed to be on the Big Island, but could not be reached for comment for this story. This spring, Kema's landlord at the time in Hilo said his tenant was working as a handyman and did not want to discuss the case.

The Kemas have had court appointed attorneys since 2000, the same year that police reclassified the case and turned it over to the Big Island prosecutor.

Eliason said Peter Kema Sr. is represented by the Big Island public defender's office. When asked for comment, Big Island Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa did not comment.

Eliason said Jaylin Kema was given a court-appointed attorney after police told her she had become "a target of the investigation," but he stressed that there was no active case and that no arrests have been made.

The couple separated earlier this year and 35-year-old Jaylin Kema has a restraining order against her husband through January 2008. In court papers, she said her husband had been abusive, smashing ukuleles against her with such force that he once broke a tooth. On another occasion, he chased her with a machete, according to court records.

She also believes he has access to a shotgun or a handgun, and because of that Eliason would not say where Jaylin is living or what she is doing, if anything.

But she is an unhappy woman, he said.

The Family Court years ago terminated the couple's parental rights to their three other children, a fact that weighs heavily on Jaylin Kema, Eliason said.

"She wants her children back and they have all been taken away from her," Eliason said. "And there is not one speck of evidence she did anything to harm them. Jaylin is really, really depressed."

Eliason said his client has answered every question that authorities have asked about her son's case. And she'll answer additional questions as long as authorities submit them in writing first, he said.

Her actions have been "commendable," Eliason said.

"One thing we know for sure is Jaylin has told everyone everything she knows about the case," Eliason said. "And she has been interviewed many, many times."

The 2,000 pages of confidential documents were released by human services director Lillian Koller with the hope that they might place pressure on those responsible for Peter Boy's disappearance.

But the publicly stated reason for opening the files was to shake something loose.

"I would hope it would maybe cause some reckless conduct by the perpetrators so that they could be detected," Koller said. "Or they might come forth and start explaining things eight years later inconsistently because they don't even remember what it was they said before."

Eliason said the documents make his client "look like the bad guy."

"The perception of the parents is mom and dad are both responsible," Eliason said. "All we are suggesting is this: That is an assumption that is really not true. If you read the documents, Jaylin is not a suspect."

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.