Twenty years later, justice has finally been served for “Peter Boy” Kema.
His father, Peter Kema Sr., was sentenced Monday morning to 20 years in prison for the death of his son, bringing an end to a cold case that haunted the state for decades.
Handcuffed and with graying hair, Kema looked a much different man than the one who maintained his innocence in a 1998 KHON2 interview following his son’s disappearance: “I did not kill my son as far as I know. No, I did not kill him.”
At Monday’s sentencing, Kema chose silence.
Judge Greg Nakamura asked, “Is there anything you want to tell me today with regard to your sentence?”
Kema’s response was brief: “No, your honor.”
Kema looked down as Nakamura handed down the sentence: 20 years for one count of manslaughter and five years for hindering prosecution, both to run at the same time.
He will have to serve a mandatory six years and eight months in prison before he is eligible for parole, and he will receive credit for time already served.
“We believe the parole board. We have a lot of faith in the board that they will give him close to 20 if not all 20 of these years,” said Hawaii island prosecutor Mitch Roth.
In court, the family listened as the state reiterated chilling facts about Peter Boy’s short life. Prosecutors said Peter Boy’s death was a culmination of physical and emotional abuse, child neglect, and lack of medical care for his injuries. The 6-year-old, called “Pepe” by his family, eventually died from an infected wound.
“The condition of Pepe’s body is compared to that of a Holocaust victim at the hand of his own father,” said deputy prosecuting attorney Haaheo Kahoohalahala.
The state revealed Kema admitted to burning his young son’s body, then throwing the remains into the water off the Puna district.
“The death of Pepe at the hands of the defendant was inexcusable, and even more inexcusable is that it took the defendant over 20 years to finally admit what he did when he changed his plea just a few months ago,” Kahoohalahala said.
Kema’s sentencing lasted nearly 10 minutes. He left the courtroom without a glance at his family, including his children and wife, Jaylin Kema.
“I thought he would at least turn to us and look at us and apologize. Say something. If you’re human, say something. He didn’t say anything. No remorse, nothing,” said Jimmy Acol, Peter Boy’s 75-year-old grandfather.
While investigators have not found Peter Boy’s remains, his family says with Monday’s sentencing, loved ones can at least begin to heal.
“It’s a long battle, but we have some piece of mind and life goes on for us — a long journey,” Acol said. “We will try and strive and do what we can do now. We have some closure and we say thank you. People come up and give us a hug. It gives us fuel to go on. It makes us happy that people care.”
The family hopes to hold a memorial service for Peter Boy around Labor Day weekend. They’d like to have family members living in Florida and Oregon to be here.
Because of Peter Boy’s case, Hawaii island prosecutors are still calling for changes at Child Protective Services.
Roth wants to ensure that when an issue is reported, someone from CPS is sent out immediately to deal with the situation. He says they’re working with lawmakers on proposing legislation.