The siblings of “Peter Boy” Kema are suing Peter Kema Sr., Jaylin Kema, and the state for his death.
The lawsuit claims that despite warnings from a Child Protective Services worker and a psychologist, and pleading by his foster parent, the state ultimately returned Peter Boy to his parents, which led to his death.
“Defendant State of Hawaii had knowledge and information concerning the ongoing severe physical abuse of Peter Boy by his parents and the risk that he could sustain additional substantial injuries and even death if he remained in the Kema household. Despite this knowledge, and in breach of their legal duties, Defendant State of Hawaii returned Peter Boy to his parents’ household, supported reunification of the Kema family, and supported the termination and closure of the protective proceedings and parental supervision.”
The 6-year-old disappeared on Hawaii Island in 1997. Twenty years later, his parents pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Kema Sr. told investigators he dumped his son’s body in the water and, as part of a plea deal, led police to that area.
When a search revealed no sign of Peter Boy’s remains, authorities confirmed Kema Sr. took, and passed, a lie detector test.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages.
Randall Rosenberg, the attorney for Peter Boy’s siblings, is helping the family go after the state for how it handled the abuse of Peter Boy leading up to his death.
“We have tried to list in the complaint the problems that occurred, things that we thought were errors committed by the employees of the Department of Human Services and Child Protective Services as they took on this role of family supervision, parental supervision in the protective proceeding involving Peter Boy Kema,” he said.
Court documents describe the duty the state had to protect Peter Boy and his siblings from harm from their parents.
According to Rosenberg, documents also allege the state was negligent, and that negligence was a factor in the wrongful death of Peter Boy.
“What the family is looking for is some sort of justice given all the things that they have gone through, the years that they went through without knowing anything about what happened to their brother, the years of abuse that they both witnessed,” he said.
Rosenberg says this type of case would be a first for Hawaii, but he hopes other cases from around the country will convince the judge to allow the case to move forward.
“We have some case law. There is nothing here in Hawaii on point. We have case law from other jurisdictions that addresses this. We’re hoping the court will apply those cases to this situation, and do the right thing for this family,” he said. They have been through a lot. The two sisters, Chauntelle and Lina (Acol), have got children of their own, and they’re trying to come to grips with how to deal with this when their children become old enough to understand both with respect to the abuse they suffered and death of their brother.”
The Department of Human Services issued the following statement in response:
“We have not yet read the complaint filed by Peter Boy Kema’s siblings. Our department will be working with the Department of the Attorney General on next steps. While their family and the broader community have gotten a lot of answers over the last two years since the Kemas were first arrested, we recognize that there is still a lot of healing and closure to come.
“In the more than 20 years since the tragic disappearance and death of Peter Boy, Child Welfare Services has transformed to evolve with the needs of our families and continually improve.”