Sunday, May 1, 2005

Reports cite
litany of injuries

A Big Isle boy who disappeared
8 years ago suffered abuse early,
state documents disclose

In the first three-and-a-half months of Peter "Peter Boy" Kema Jr.'s life, he already had suffered fractures to his ribs, knees and ankle, a medical report released yesterday confirms.

A doctor's 1991 description of injuries "characteristic of child abuse" is among 23 pages of Department of Human Services documents about the Big Island child's case released yesterday.

Those injuries, combined with his parents' inability to explain how he got them, were serious enough to have Peter Boy and his older half-siblings taken into state custody in 1991.

A Family Court returned Peter Boy to the care of his mother, Jaylin, and father, Peter Sr., in 1994.

In an April 4, 1997, child abuse report, when Peter Boy would have been almost 6, the reporting person said they feared that Peter Boy's arm was broken. But when child welfare workers tried to check on Peter Boy, he couldn't be found.

Peter Boy hasn't been located since and may never be found, Lillian Koller, director of the Department of Human Services, said yesterday.

Koller pushed to change state rules so that confidential information about children in state custody can be released when the safety of the child is at stake, she said.

Koller said the documents released yesterday aren't meant to "tell a story," but to provide a sampling of the 2,000-page DHS file on Peter Boy.

She wants people to read the documents and bring forward any information that might help police figure out what happened to the boy who, if he's alive, is 14 today.

"Could we have done better? Could this have been avoided or not?" Koller said yesterday. "Eight years of silence and secrecy hasn't gotten us very far."

Koller called Peter Boy's file "an appalling set of documents... It just wrenches your heart, especially the letter from the foster parent."

In that July 7, 1994, letter, the foster parent says that Peter Boy flourished during three years with his maternal grandparents, "where he learned how to love and be loved back" and shouldn't be returned to the parents who "did not act like parents three years ago."

Other records released yesterday include:

» A March 1992 letter from a DHS-referred psychologist who says that the Jaylin and Peter Kema Sr. weren't making counseling appointments and appeared to be under "chaotic stresses and demands" including unemployment, money problems and difficult living conditions.

» The 1992 agreement that spelled out what the Kemas would have to do to regain custody of their children.

» A 1995 letter from an attorney representing Peter Boy's foster parents, which claimed the Kemas were trying to isolate Peter Boy and his siblings from their grandparents.

» A Sept. 10, 1998, letter from a U.S. Department of Justice child interview specialist who said Peter Boy's siblings had "witnessed violent events that created a level of fear where they did not feel safe to disclose while they were in contact with both their biological mother and their step/biological father."

When questioned in April 1998, Peter Kema Sr. told Big Island police that he gave Peter Boy to a family friend on Oahu named "Auntie Rose Makuakane" in August 1997. But police were never able to confirm the existence of the woman or find Peter Boy on Oahu.

At one point in the saga, Big Island police dug up a yard where the Kemas used to live, looking for a body, but found nothing. Kema Sr. denied that he killed his son. No one has been arrested in the case.

Yolanda Acol, Peter Boy's maternal grandmother, said in 1998 after Peter Boy's disappearance that "this never should have happened. The worst thing about it is, our grandchildren were safe with us and the courts gave them back to their parents."

Koller promised at a legislative hearing in late March that her department would release some documents in the Peter Boy case by the end of April. The release was made possible by new departmental rules approved by Gov. Linda Lingle in December, she said.

Koller said she hopes to release the remaining pages in his files by the end of May. The DHS documents have been edited to remove some names, including those of Peter Boy's half-brother and half-sister.

The documents released yesterday can be viewed at www.hawaii.gov/dhs/.

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