Public help is needed
to solve case of ‘Peter Boy’


The state Department of Human Services has released documents about the abuse of a Big Island boy who has been missing since 1997.

A torturous childhood and a broken system for monitoring parental abuse are chronicled in 2,000 pages of documents made public by the state about Peter Kema Jr., last seen alive at 6 years old on the Big Island more than eight years ago. Release of the documents by the Department of Human Services should cause a fresh assessment of the state's role in protecting children and possibly elicit new evidence about whatever happened to "Peter Boy."

Little more than three months after his birth on May 1, 1991, Peter Boy had suffered fractures in his shoulder, elbow, ribs and knee. He and two older siblings were taken from their parents and placed in the custody of their maternal grandparents or foster families for the next three years.

It remains puzzling how Family Court Judge Ben Gaddis could have ordered the three children returned to the Big Island home of their parents, Peter Kema Sr. and his wife Jaylin, in 1994 and 1995. Peter Boy's foster parents had pleaded that he not be returned, a social worker recommended that the Kemas' parental rights be terminated and an attorney appointed to represent the children's interests warned of the parents' "continuing difficulties to provide a safe home."

Over the next three years, the abuse resumed, according to children's accounts. Peter Boy's younger sister, Devalynn, told psychologist Steven Choy that the father tied Peter Boy with chains and a rope, dumped him naked into a trash can and forced him to eat "doo doo." Two older children told a foster parent that Peter Boy at times was locked in the trunk of a car and was made to sleep outside, often handcuffed, with no pillows, cover or jacket.

Devalynn told Choy in 1998 that she had seen Peter Boy "dead" in a closet and in the trunk of her father's car, but she later told him he was "alive in Honolulu." The father has denied killing Peter Boy, telling police he had given him to a friend, Aunty Rose Makuakane, on Oahu in mid-1997. Police have found no evidence that the woman exists. Peter Boy, with a black eye and injured arm, was last seen by his maternal grandparents in December 1996.

Authorities have understandably hesitated at pursuing prosecution on the sole basis of children's accounts. Paul de Silva, a former Hawaii County prosecutor and circuit judge, points out that defense attorneys would question Devalynn's memory and maintain that her recollections could have been influenced by leading questions.

In the 1980s, sensational sexual-assault cases in Los Angeles and a small town in Minnesota based on children's coached allegations proved groundless. Likewise, in 1986, then-Circuit Judge Robert Klein threw out sex-abuse charges against an Oahu real-estate salesman, concluding that the allegedly victimized children were "unable to separate the facts from the learned experience" of interviews by parents, police, doctors, social workers, investigators and attorneys.

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