Peter Kema Jr., a.k.a. “Peter Boy,” went missing on Hawaii Island.
In January, Jaylin Kema filed a missing person’s report at the urging of social workers and police, though his parents maintained he was with relatives.
On April 26, 1998, the Kemas joined Big Island police to ask for help finding their son, and Barbara Ho filed an exclusive report.
Peter Kema Sr. says he left his 6-year-old son at Aala Park on Oahu in August with a woman named Aunty Rose.
Family members question why a father would leave his son with a near-stranger.
“Well, I was running out of money and I couldn’t support him, so I was thinking of his health and his shelter,” Kema said.
Kema and his wife, Jaylin, met with KHON2 to appeal for help.
“My main concern is just to plead to the public or this woman named Aunty Rose to bring Peter Boy back,” said Jaylin Kema.
“Why didn’t you take him back to Hilo?” KHON2 asked.
“Because of personal reasons,” Kema said.
The Kemas once lived at a house in Nanawale Estates, about 25 miles outside of Hilo, but they moved in June of 1997.
Court records show that same month, a female relative reported Peter Boy had a broken arm. He had been abused as an infant more than once while in his parents’ care, but Child Protective Services returned him to their custody when he was four years old.
Peter Boy’s grandparents say they were increasingly concerned about the child and tried to get CPS workers to check on him. A CPS report made to the court does not mention the grandparents’ worries.
It wasn’t until January that CPS notified Hilo police that Peter Boy had disappeared, and it wasn’t until last Thursday that Kema gave police a description of Aunty Rose and went with them to Aala Park.
“I’ll say they’ve been cooperating,” said Capt. Morton Carter, Hawaii County police. “I cannot say whether we’ve been satisfied with the answers they’ve given so far, but we are following up on comments they made to us.”
“Are you responsible for your son being missing, or did you kill your son?” KHON2 asked Kema.
“I did not kill my son as far as I know. No, I did not kill him,” Kema responded.
The Kemas’ three other children are currently in foster care.
Since Peter Boy’s parents reported his disappearance in January of 1998, police have treated the case as a missing persons case, until now.
As Sheryl Turbeville reported in June, the Hawaii County Police Department reclassified the case as a homicide and forwarded their findings to prosecutors.
“The next step is to do a thorough review of the case to determine if the investigation is complete and if additional work needs to be done by the Hawaii County Police Department, and if there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed,” said Hawaii County prosecutor Jay Kimura.
The police investigation focused on Peter Boy’s parents, Jaylin and Peter Kema Sr. Peter Boy’s three siblings told police and doctors their brother suffered horrific abuse at the hands of his parents.
Child Protective Services took Peter Boy away from his parents as an infant because of abuse. He suffered a fractured leg and there was evidence of old fractures, but CPS returned Peter Boy to his parents.
Police say from the beginning there were many holes in the Kemas’ story.
The last time his maternal grandparents saw the boy alive was in December 1996 at a family funeral. At the time, the boy had a black eye and appeared to have a broken arm. The family reported the incident to CPS, but nothing was done.
It wasn’t until a year later that a CPS worker finally told Hilo police the boy maybe in danger and police convinced Jaylin Kema to file a missing persons report.
Although his body hasn’t been recovered, prosecutors are very optimistic.
“It’s unusual not to have a body, however we have tried cases in this jurisdiction and other jurisdictions where no bodies have been found and prosecution was successful,” Kimura said.
The Kemas lost custody of their other three children. The two older children, Chantel and Alan, now live on the mainland with their father, and the youngest, Davlyn, was adopted by her maternal grandparents, James and Yolanda Acol.
In May, the state Department of Human Services released 2,000 pages of confidential documents in which Peter Boy’s sister told a doctor she saw her brother dead in a box in her parents’ closet, and that they took the box to Honolulu.
As Kirk Fernandes reported, throughout the records, there are numerous descriptions of the “dysfunctional” Kema family.
In 1991, when Peter Boy Jr. was just a few months old, he was already in the hospital with damage to the shoulders, knees, and elbows, and healed fractures of ribs.
Psychological reports later pegged both parents with potential for “abusive parenting.”
Still, Peter Boy and two other half-siblings were eventually returned to Jaylin and Peter Kema in 1995, despite numerous warnings, including an outreach worker report that said, “I have witnessed Peter Kema’s anger…”
“We can’t tolerate the disappearance of a child for eight years and have no justice come of it and not know what happened to this child,” said Lillian Koller with DHS.
Still, Koller says while it’s not an excuse, federal law emphasized family reunification back then.
The documents also show a court-appointed guardian stating in the summer of 1995: “I believe that this family is well on its way to success.”
Koller worked to release the documents in hopes they would help an investigation and also to prove that state statutes allow for waivers on confidentiality clauses in cases such as this.
“There are accounts of shootings of a BB gun into him, into his flesh,” Koller said.
There’s also an account from a young sibling who told a doctor that “her father tied Peter Boy in chains and rope” and put him “in the rubbish can, naked.” The document went on to say “she reported that she saw Peter Boy in a box ‘dead’ in her parent’s closet and they ‘took’ the box to Honolulu.”
Koller said she also altered procedure so CPS will immediately be able to publish information about missing children without having to go to court or get other approvals. It took months for word to get out in this case.
The case was reopened in November.
Hawaii County prosecutor Mitch Roth said he was looking at the Peter Boy case with a fresh set of eyes — his eyes as well as the police.
“I can say the police department has gone out, they’ve started re-interviewing people,” he said. “Part of the reason I’m talking to you today is the hope that maybe someone was out there and they remember something or they saw something or they heard something, and maybe more information comes forward.”
Indictments were handed down and unsealed in a Hilo courtroom.
We’re told there was key testimony from other family members, including Peter Boy’s siblings, who have told KHON2 in the past that they were abused by their parents and witnessed Peter Boy getting abused as well.
In court she said, “I failed to protect my son,” and cried as the prosecutor read the details of how Peter Boy was abused and that she failed to report the abuse because she was afraid of her husband.
Prosecutors say the key part in making this deal was being able to finally locate Peter Boy’s remains.
As the judge stated in court: “The state agrees that it will recommend concurrent sentences between the two counts if you provide information which results in the successful recovery of Peter Kema Jr.’s body or, if the body cannot be recovered, that you pass a polygraph examination regarding the location of a scene.”
“How confident are you that you’ll be able to find what everybody’s been hoping to find?” KHON2 asked Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth.
“It’s hard,” Roth replied. “There is a possibility that we’re not going to find the body, and that’s why we’ve asked for him to find the polygraph examination, and we’re pretty confident that we’ll get something.”