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‘Peter Boy’ parents charged with second-degree murder

Updated: 
April 29, 2016 - 9:05am

HILO — The parents of Peter Kema Jr., aka “Peter Boy,” are in police custody and have been charged with his murder.

Peter Kema Sr., 46, was arrested at 5:31 p.m. Thursday and charged with second-degree murder for the 1997 death of his 6-year-old son, according to Lt. Greg Esteban of the Hawaii Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Section. Kema was already in custody at the police cellblock, having been arrested earlier in the afternoon on a charge of driving without a license.

Kema’s 45-year-old wife, Jaylin Kema, had been taken into custody 17 minutes earlier on Silva Street near the Port of Hilo and also charged with second-degree murder.

A grand jury met Wednesday and indicted the couple. The jury’s work was completed too late in the day for a court to issue arrest warrants, so Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura set bail and issued the warrants Thursday afternoon.

During the hearing, Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville asked the judge to order Kema held without bail “or in the alternative, $500,000.”

“He has a prior record of burglary in the second degree in 1992, criminal trespass first in 2007, criminal contempt of court in 2007. He’s had multiple driving without a license charges and was, I believe, arrested this afternoon for a driving without a license charge,” Damerville told the judge.

Nakamura set bail at $500,000 and ordered Kema to have no contact with Jaylin Kema or with Peter Boy’s siblings, Allan Acol, Chauntelle (Acol) Woods and Lina Acol. Bail was set without prejudice, meaning prosecutors are free to file a motion requesting Kema be held without bail.

Damerville asked the judge for $150,000 bail for Jaylin Kema, and noted she has multiple convictions for shoplifting, contempt of court and failure to appear. He added that she’s facing a felony theft charge in a welfare fraud case, but is not a convicted felon.

“When we served the warrant on the house on the welfare fraud charges, we did find a firearm and drugs,” Damerville said. “In the state’s view, that’s an aggravating circumstance. … Her liability is primarily one as an accomplice. There is evidence that she has been, herself, a subject of abuse. That’s why her bail (request) is reduced.”

Nakamura granted the $150,000 bail and ordered that Jaylin Kema not have any contact with her children, who are all witnesses in the case.

The “Peter Boy” case is the most notorious missing child-turned-murder investigation in Hawaii history. The abused Big Island boy went missing sometime in late spring or early summer 1997, and his mother didn’t officially report his disappearance until January 1998 after prompting by a social worker and police.

Peter Kema Sr. told authorities in August 1997 he left Peter Boy with a longtime family friend, “Aunty Rose Makuakane,” at Aala Park in downtown Honolulu. Authorities couldn’t find any evidence the woman exists, didn’t believe Kema’s story, and found no plane tickets to corroborate his account.

When the boy’s disappearance became public, outrage about the boy’s disappearance was palpable, and in the early 2000s, bumper stickers with the child’s face and the question “So where’s Peter?” were seen statewide.

In 2005, then-state Department of Human Services Director Lillian Koller released more than 2,000 pages of heavily redacted documents, with details of abuse allegedly suffered by Peter Boy and his siblings at the hands of Kema Sr.

The youngest, Lina Acol, who’s now an adult, told a psychologist in 1998, when she was 5, that she saw Peter Boy dead in a box, but also told the psychologist her brother was alive in Honolulu. The psychologist noted the girl’s understanding of death was consistent with her age and could lead her to believe a person could become alive again after death.

The girl also told the psychologist Kema Sr. gave both Peter Boy and her mother “dirty lickins,” which she described as punching, hitting and slapping, and that Peter Boy was tied up with chains and ropes.

When he was only 3 months old, Peter Boy was admitted to Hilo Hospital with multiple fractures, both new and healing, to his shoulder, elbow, ribs and knees. The older children were placed with their maternal grandparents, where they thrived. Peter Boy spent time between foster care and Jaylin Kema’s parents.

On July 25, 1994, Peter Boy was returned to his parents, despite warnings from several quarters that the Kemas were unfit and almost 11 months later, the other children were also returned to the Kemas. The case was closed in October 1995.

In 1997, child welfare officials opened another investigation after a cousin said Peter Boy may have suffered a broken arm and was forced to eat dog feces. That was about the same time the boy’s siblings said they last saw him alive.

County Prosecutor Mitch Roth noted Peter Boy would have turned 25 on Sunday. He said the charges are the product of his promise that police and his office’s deputies and investigators would look at cold cases “with fresh eyes.”

“This is something we’ve said we planned on doing all along, and we’ve been doing that,” Roth said. Unopposed so far for re-election this year, he made the Peter Boy case and other cold cases a centerpiece of his 2012 campaign.

“We’ve had a couple of these cases (solved) already — (Daniel) DeJarnette, (Alexander) Gambsky. And we have some other … cases … getting ready to be set for grand jury as well,” he said.

Both DeJarnette, a retired Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective who lived in Ocean View, and Gambsky, an Orchidland Estates man, were convicted of manslaughter for the slayings of their wives, Yu DeJarnette and Dawn Mancilla Gambsky.

“Peter Boy” Kema case: A timeline

May 1, 1991: Peter Kema Jr., aka “Peter Boy” is born to Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema.

May 8, 1991: A Department of Human Services case is opened on the Kema family after the abuse of two older children, Peter Boy’s half-brother and half-sister, is reported. The children are removed from the Kemas and placed with their maternal grandparents, James and Yolanda Acol.

May 14, 1991: A DHS caseworker’s report to family court indicates that the half-brother, 4, told a DHS worker that Peter Sr. hit him on the arms, legs and “okole” with both of his hands and a broom and that he “spanks” him, his sister and Jaylin. The parents deny hurting the children.

June 26, 1991: The older children are returned to Peter Sr. and Jaylin.

July 8, 1991: A DHS social worker in Hilo asks the court to reconsider whether Peter Boy, 2 months old, is at risk in the home.

Aug. 11, 1991: Peter Boy, 3 months old, is admitted to Hilo Hospital. X-rays show multiple new and healing fractures in his shoulder, elbow, ribs and knee. All children are removed from the Kemas. The older children are placed with their maternal grandparents. Peter Boy spends part of the time in foster care and with his maternal grandparents.

Aug. 14, 1991: Court-appointed guardian Edith Kawai Radl recommends DHS seriously consider “terminating parental rights as a viable option, sooner rather than later” because of noncompliance by Jaylin and Peter Sr. with their service plan.

Oct. 31, 1991: Psychologist John Wingert’s evaluation says: “Jaylin and Peter both come across as extremely needy and emotionally immature persons who are evasive of responsibility and who displace the source of difficulties onto others. They appeared to be so wrapped up in their own adjustment problems and unhappiness to the point that this compromises their ability to be empathetic and understanding of the children’s needs and neither of them comes across as particularly child oriented.” Wingert’s report says both parents are at risk for abusing their children.

Nov. 15, 1991: The children are transferred from a Hilo foster home to the Acols in Kona. DHS notes that in the previous three months the grandparents, who lived 100 miles away, visited the children in their Hilo foster home more than the parents, who lived five miles away.

July 7, 1994: Peter Boy’s foster parents write a letter pleading with state officials not to return the boy to the Kemas. After the decision to return the boy to his biological parents, the foster parents write an impassioned plea expressing their misgivings about the decision.

July 25, 1994: Peter Boy is returned to parents.

June 11, 1995: The Kemas get permanent custody of the other children.

Aug. 17, 1995: The attorney for Peter Boy’s grandparents writes a letter to social workers about the Acols’ concerns that Peter Sr. and Jaylin Kema are not abiding by an agreement to allow visitation with the children they took care of for three years.

October 1995: State officials close case.

December 1996: The Acols see Peter Boy for the last time at a family funeral. His grandfather later says the boy had a black eye and injured arm.

Feb. 23, 1997: Peter Sr. completes probation for a 1990 burglary.

April 4, 1997: A 15-year-old cousin reports that Peter Boy may have suffered a broken arm and that he was forced to eat dog feces.

June 1997: DHS opens investigation.

June 1997: Peter Boy is last seen alive by siblings. His grandparents try to report Peter Boy missing, but police say the parents know where he is.

June 17, 1997: Police receive DHS report, which doesn’t mention Peter Boy is missing.

July 7, 1997: Peter Sr. and Jaylin meet social workers without Peter Boy; Jaylin says he is with relatives.

August 1997: Peter Sr. says he left Peter Boy with Aunty Rose Makuakane at Aala Park in downtown Honolulu.

Jan. 9, 1998: At the urging of a social worker and police, Jaylin makes a missing person report.

Feb. 5, 1998: Police issue missing person press release and photo of Peter Boy.

April 15, 1998: A case analysis concludes “there is a disconcerting possibility that Peter Jr. is dead.”

April 22, 1998: Peter Boy’s older half-sister half-brother, Chauntelle and Allan Acol, along with his younger sister, Devalynn, are taken from the Kemas and put in foster care. Chauntelle and Allan’s father, William Collier, get permanent custody of the two in 1999. The Acols gain custody of Devalynn in 2000.

April 23, 1998: An unidentified worker assesses the Kema children and writes, “I did bring up Peter Boy’s name; they all showed fear. I feel they do know something about him.”

April 24, 1998: Big Island police take Peter Sr. to Aala Park to retrace steps of alleged handing of Peter Boy to Aunty Rose. At a press conference few days later, Peter Sr. says, “I did not kill my son.”

April 30, 1998: A DHS report states Peter Boy’s parents “did not describe him to be missing until conclusion by (DHS) that the parents were withholding the child and information about him.”

Aug. 15-16, 1998: A U.S. Department of Justice expert interviews Peter Boy’s siblings and finds that “the children witnessed violent events that created a level of fear that they did not feel safe to disclose while they were in contact with both their biological mother and their step/biological father.”

Dec. 17, 1998: DHS report says that the children, who by now are removed from the Kema home, described sexual abuse at an undisclosed time by Peter Sr., Jaylin and another man.

March 1999: Police submit the case to prosecutors for review. No one is charged in connection with Peter Boy’s disappearance.

2000: Police wrap their investigation and route it to prosecutors for further action. Police Capt. Randall Medeiros, then a detective on the case, told the Tribune-Herald in 2010 a suspect was named, but couldn’t divulge the identity.

Jan. 31- Feb. 2, 2001: Detectives and personnel from U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory dig up the back yard of a Keaau home where Peter Sr. lived but find no evidence.

April 30, 2005: Lillian Koller, head of the Department of Human Services, releases 23 pages of Peter Boy documents. Another 2,000 pages of previously secret documents are made public a month later.

November 13, 2014: Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth says police and prosecutors are doing a new round of interviews in the case, which he described as an active investigation. Roth said an indictment could occur in 2015.

April 27, 2016: A Hilo grand jury indicts both Peter Sr. and Jaylin Kema of second-degree murder by omission.

Sources: DHS records, published reports

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