3 relatives and state sued over 5 kids' abuse


POSTED: Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Three lawyers have filed a lawsuit on behalf of three of five children who suffered four years of abuse at the hands of their aunt, cousin and cousin's husband, whom the state awarded temporary and then permanent custody.

The lawsuit, filed in state court yesterday, names as defendants Rita Makekau, her daughter Barbara Kalama, son-in-law Gabriel Kalama and the state of Hawaii.

Makekau is serving a five-year state prison term for abuse of a household or family member and eight counts of second-degree assault.

Gabriel Kalama is serving a one-year jail term as a condition of his five years of probation for two counts of second-degree assault and five counts of abuse. Barbara Kalama will begin serving her one-year jail term after her husband completes his as part of her five-year probation for endangering the welfare of a minor and six counts of abuse.

The state removed the five children from the Kalama household in 2005 after discovering they were being abused. At the time, the three brothers and two sisters were ages 7 to 14. The children said they were hit in the head, face and body with a metal baseball bat and metal and wooden spoons and cans, and starved for days at a time.

The state initially placed the children in Makekau's care, then moved them in with the Kalamas after discovering Makekau and her husband had criminal records.

The lawsuit claims the state should have known the Kalamas were not suitable guardians for the children and that Makekau would still have access to them.