Prosecutors push for added protections in light of child abuse cases on Hawaii island

It’s another horrific case of child abuse Hawaii island prosecutors say is worthy of as much attention as “Peter Boy” Kema’s story.

On July 13, three people were arrested and accused of murdering a 9-year-old girl who was found severely malnourished in a Hilo home.

Officers discovered the girl in June 2016, unconscious and severely malnourished, inside a Hilo apartment on Kinoole Street, across from the Central Fire Station. She was taken to the hospital and never woke up.

Over a year later, Kevin Lehano, 49, and Tiffany Stone, 33, who were the child’s parents, and Henrietta Stone, 59, the child’s grandmother and guardian, were arrested and charged in the child’s death. They’ve all pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors claim the three denied the girl food, water, and medical treatment for about a year.

The family’s neighbor, who says he spoke often with the grandmother, says he’s shocked by the allegations.

“She was a very sincere lady. I can’t say much for the daughter and son. When they did come by, they were nice,” said Jacob Jameson, who lived in the unit upstairs from the Stone family. “It seemed like they were afraid because it was hanging over their head, probably (saw this) coming.”

Hawaii County deputy prosecutor Ricky Roy Damerville says the investigation racked up 6,000 pages of documents.

“Six-thousand pages. It’s only been a year since it allegedly happened. You can make some educated guesses about the involvement of different agencies,” Damerville said.

Damerville says this latest case of child abuse is similar to two others: the first involving “Peter Boy” Kema, who prosecutors say died in 1997 at the age of 6 from a combination of physical and emotional abuse, child neglect, and lack of medical care.

His father, Peter Kema Sr., was sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison.

The second case involved a 10-year-old girl who in 2005 was found in a coma with burn marks and maggot-infested wounds. She miraculously lived, and her caregiver, Hyacinth Poouahi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Damerville says both children were pulled out of school to be home-schooled to hide the abuse.

“Now you’re going to ask me, well, is the Stone case similar? And I’m going to say what I can say, is that, look what’s out there in the media already,” said Damerville.

On the heels of yet another child abuse investigation, prosecutors are looking to change the law to protect children.

Hawaii island prosecutors are proposing legislation to make sure parents or guardians aren’t using home schooling as a way to conceal child abuse.

“There were things changed many years ago, but there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. We still have children being unfortunately abused,” said Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth.

The state’s Child Welfare Services agency said it could not comment on the case due to confidentiality laws.

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