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Wednesday, June 1, 2005
But whether the release of these documents can spur the sought-after justice is far from certain.
State Department of Human Services Director Lillian Koller spearheaded the release of the long-confidential documents to help solve the case and to open the child protective system for public review. She expressed hope that the information, which was also recently forwarded to police and prosecutors, could be used in a criminal case.
Perhaps the key revelation is that in 1997 Peter's sister, then 5 years old, reported that she had seen her brother dead a year earlier in her parents' closet and they "took" the box to Honolulu.
"Very often in any kind of child abuse or child sex assault case, there are ways to deal with the testimony of children," Koller said at a news conference yesterday after the documents were released.
"If the recollection could be refreshed so that this child could recall it, what that child remembers, it could be incredibly helpful," Koller said. "That's one of the things that encouraged us when we did see some of this material here. We thought this would really be beneficial to the criminal prosecution."
But Paul de Silva, former Hawaii County prosecutor and Circuit Court judge, advised caution regarding the sister's account.
Although the girl is now 12, there would still be questions about how good her memory was of an event when she was so young, de Silva said. A prosecutor would have to consider how articulate she would be in telling her story to a jury.
Even if she remembered correctly, a defense attorney would attempt to show that her memory was faulty, formed by authorities asking her leading questions when she was very young, he said.
There is also a problem because she said Peter Boy was dead, but later said he was alive in Honolulu. Psychologist Steven Choy said in the documents that such confusion about the finality of death is typical of children of that age.
The confusion doesn't make for good testimony, de Silva suggested.
"I think (the testimony) would be really of questionable value," he said.
It's even possible that a prosecutor would build his case around the girl's statement, and a judge might then refuse to allow her testimony for some reason, de Silva said. It's wiser to wait until the prosecutor has all the evidence he needs, he said.
Koller said law enforcement officials had expressed some concern that the release of the documents could actually hurt the case and make witnesses reluctant to cooperate.
However, she said, confidentiality has to be balanced with having the case go on without a resolution.
"Outrage, it's beyond that. ... We cannot tolerate a missing child for eight years without an explanation, without knowing, without any justice and without any improvements to the child welfare system to prevent this from happening again."
Deputy Prosecutor Michael Kagami, who is handling the case, said he had received the 2,000 pages from the Department of Human Services at the beginning of May, but hadn't thoroughly reviewed it because he had been away from the office for three weeks.
He declined to comment on the statement of the sister, but said generally that he saw little new in the documents that his office didn't already have.
Deputy Attorney General Christopher Young, whose Cold Case Unit has offered to give the county prosecutor its perspective, said he agreed with the caution expressed by de Silva.
"It makes no sense to risk a case if in fact there are questions standing out there that need to be answered," Young said.
De Silva pointed out that there is no statute of limitations on murder.
Koller said she had released the documents also to spur reform to the Child Welfare Services branch of her department.
Psychologist Choy said he believes Koller has been successful in trying to reform the branch. In the past, privacy considerations created problems in agencies sharing information with each other, he said. "The flow of information will go a lot better now," he said.
To achieve justice for Peter Boy, "We really need the community to help," he said. Neighbors and friends of the Kemas need to give police whatever information they have, he said.
In 1991, Peter Boy Kema, his stepbrother and stepsister were taken away from his parents Peter Sr. and Jaylin Kema when he was about 3 months old. Doctors in the Hilo Medical Center emergency room discovered fractures in his arms, legs and ribs.
Peter Boy was returned in 1994, and his stepbrother and stepsister were given back the following year.
Both parents have denied hurting the boy. Peter Sr. said in 1998 that he gave Peter Boy, then 6, to family friend Aunty Rose Makuakane in Aala Park in August 1997 to raise. But police have not been able to confirm that she exists.
The documents released yesterday blacked out the names of Peter Boy's siblings, social workers and some family members who cared for the children.
In the psychologist's report, Peter Boy's sister tells of seeing Peter Boy given "dirty lickings" by their father Peter Sr., forced to eat "doo doo," tied up with chains and rope, and placed naked in a garbage can.
The sister who reported Peter Boy dead also told Choy that she thinks her brother is now alive in Honolulu, something that could affect her credibility on the witness stand.
His stepbrother and stepsister told of other abuse -- that Peter Boy wasn't given enough to eat, was tied with a rope to a bed post to prevent him from going into the kitchen at night to get food; that he was sometimes handcuffed; often slept outside in the cold with no pillow, covers or jacket; and was often locked in the trunk of the car.
The siblings also said Peter Boy had an infection in his arm from a mosquito bite that "turned into a big hole in the crook of his arm" and moved down to his wrist. "It really stank and it had a lot of pus," they said. They were not sure if Peter Boy went to the doctor.
Peter Boy was last seen alive by relatives in December 1996. His siblings said they last saw him over the summer, or perhaps in September 1997.
His mother finally reported him missing in 1998.
Koller said the sometimes-contradictory stories the parents gave about Peter Boy's whereabouts could also be a factor in a prosecution.
"That alone has questions on whether somebody is telling the truth," she said. "That alone makes it something that you may be able to get some kind of a criminal action."
Police were given the 2,000 pages from the state, but much of it they already had, and where they didn't have the documents, they had the information in them, Lt. Randall Medeiros said last week.
"All the investigation we had to do was completed," and the case was turned over to the prosecutor, he said.
HILO >> Besides abuse of the Kema children in the 1990s, documents released by the Department of Human Services yesterday reveal alleged on- going abuse of the mother of missing child Peter "Peter Boy" Kema Jr.
Jaylin Kema was granted a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband, Peter Kema Sr., in January after he allegedly chased her with a machete.
Jaylin also said she was seven months pregnant in 1999 when she lost a child.
In her request for a restraining order, Jaylin said Peter Sr. stole her dog, chased her with a machete, took her car, broke two ukuleles by hitting her, broke her tooth and repeatedly harassed her by phone.
The petition says she separated from Peter Sr. in May 2004.
"In December, we have been arguing and had gotten to the point of holding my mouth shut, holding me down, tried to punch my face," she wrote. She said Peter Sr. has a shotgun and a handgun.
In response to a question about whether he suffered from mental illness, she answered, "Yes, he was in the psych ward at Hilo Medical Center in January 2002."
Jaylin also had been visibly pregnant until Dec. 28, 1999, and had told friends she was pregnant. On Dec. 29, she suddenly no longer appeared pregnant and told acquaintances the baby "didn't make it," according to the documents.
An anonymous caller told state social workers that Jaylin had bruises on her arms and around her eyes. Jaylin later strongly denied that she had been pregnant.
The documents also describe numerous cases of sexual abuse among family members.
They further revealed that Jaylin had been the victim of sexual abuse by a brother and an uncle when she was a girl.
The attorney for Jaylin and Peter Sr. could not be reached for comment.