Girl in abuse was
missing school

Neighbors offer conflicting accounts
of Alexis’ life at home

AINALOA, Hawaii » The 10-year-old Big Island girl hospitalized since Feb. 7 with severe injuries in a suspected abuse case did not return to school after winter break ended in early January, according to the principal of Keonepoko Elementary School.

When school officials contacted the Ainaloa home of Hyacinth Poouahi and her husband, Jaime Soares, where the girl, Alexis, had been left by her mother, they were told that the girl was absent because she was under medical care, Principal Kathleen Romero said yesterday.

Alexis was last reported in extremely critical condition in a Honolulu hospital, according to police who have described her as having "festering head and body wounds."

A paramedic who treated Alexis said he saw part of the girl's upper lip missing, the flesh around it rotting with a bad smell, puncture wounds in her cheeks, and tiny objects that might have been fly eggs in another wound.

Poouahi told the Star-Bulletin on Thursday that Alexis had minor injuries, but an apparent infection began to develop rapidly on Feb. 3. She said she called paramedics on Feb. 7.

Police said yesterday they would not give an update on the girl's condition or their investigation.

A neighbor who gave her name as Jo said as many as seven police cars came to the neighborhood on Thursday night. Officers went door to door with a photograph of the girl, asking residents if they had any additional information on the child, she said.

Police have classified the case as endangering the welfare of a child, and have said that abuse was involved. No arrests have been made. After Feb. 7, five children were removed from Poouahi's home and placed in foster care by state officials.

The girl's mother, Crystal Yamamoto, refused to discuss with the Star-Bulletin why she left the child in Poouahi's care in November.

Alexis' story touches soldier, well-wishers

AINALOA, Hawaii » Sgt. Pete Ludlum of the Hawaii Army National Guard, stationed in Kuwait, planned to send an American flag to the injured 10-year-old girl Alexis at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.

"I would like to send that little girl an American flag that is flown here at Camp Patriot in hopes that she may come out of her coma with the strength of the men and women here who defend that flag," Ludlum wrote in an e-mail to the Star-Bulletin.

But a hospital spokeswoman said yesterday that the hospital is not accepting such offerings. Hospital officials have not given any information on Alexis. Police have described the girl's condition as "extremely critical," but no other details have been released.

Another offering that apparently will not reach its destination is a large handmade get-well card being prepared by people in Alexis' home community of Ainaloa in the Puna district. With the words "Alexis, Our Puna Girl," child and adult well-wishers were signing the card yesterday.

Several people have asked the Star-Bulletin if there is a fund receiving money donations. There is none.

While the state Department of Human Services cannot comment on individual cases, in comparable cases Medicaid pays for a child's hospitalization, said department spokesman Derick Dahilig.

Neighbors and acquaintances of Poouahi gave conflicting accounts of the girl's life at the Ainaloa home.

Scott Miller said he visits his sister, Porsche, three or four times a week at their grandmother's house next door to Poouahi's, and never saw injuries greater than normal childhood scratches on Alexis. He said he saw her as recently as late last month. The girl was playing on the lawn, he said. Other times, he saw her riding a bicycle on the street in a shirt and long pants.

Porsche Miller maintained that the adults and children in Poouahi's family abused Alexis, although she said she did not realize how bad the situation was until after the girl was removed.

Scott Miller, 32, said he has known Poouahi since he was about 15, and Soares since he was in the second grade. He described both as "really quiet, calm people."

He said a boy of about 12, who is Poouahi's son from a previous marriage, was an extreme disciplinary problem, but he never saw Soares do more than shout at the boy.

"I never, ever saw anyone hit," he said.

His sister said she and her 7-year-old daughter saw various children get hit, including Alexis.

Principal Romero said Alexis had attended Keonepoko for part of this school year after attending Keaau Elementary School last year.

"We're very deeply concerned," Romero said. The school staff used yesterday -- a day off for children and a training day for teachers -- to prepare ways for both the staff and students to cope with news of Alexis' condition.

Teachers will be prepared to deal with stress, she said, adding, "We need to do kid-watching and kid-talking."

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