HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The parents of a Hawaii boy who has been missing for nearly 20 years have been charged with murder after authorities reopened the case and re-evaluated the evidence.
The boy’s parents have long been suspects in the 1997 disappearance of then 6-year-old Peter Kema Jr., known as “Peter Boy,” but prosecutors said there hadn’t been enough evidence to charge them until now.
Peter Kema Sr. had told authorities he took his son to Oahu and gave him to a longtime family friend.
A grand jury indicted Peter and Jaylin Kema on second-degree murder charges Wednesday. The boy’s father is being held on $500,000 bail after being arrested Thursday on an unrelated traffic offense. The mother was arrested in Hilo and her bail has been set at $150,000.
It’s not clear whether the parents have attorneys. The Hilo public defender’s office said they couldn’t confirm or deny they were representing the parents.
The young boy in the late 1990s and early 2000s became the face of a campaign for missing and abused children. Posters and bumper stickers asked, “Where’s Peter Boy?”
His father told authorities he took the child to Oahu and gave him to an “Aunty Rose Makuakane” in an informal adoption. Police could not find a woman as described by Kema or airline records indicating he had flown there.
In 2005, then-state Human Services Director Lillian Koller released more than 2,000 pages of heavily redacted documents, with details of abuse allegedly suffered by Peter Boy and his siblings at the hands of their father.
The youngest, Devalynn, told a psychologist in 1998 that she saw Peter Boy dead in a box, but the then-5-year-old girl also told the psychologist her brother was alive in Honolulu. The psychologist noted the girl’s understanding of death was consistent with her age and could lead her to believe a person could become alive again after death.
The girl, now an adult and known as Lina Acol, also told the psychologist that Peter Sr. gave both Peter Boy and her mother “dirty lickins,” which she described as punching, hitting and slapping, and that Peter Boy was tied up with chains and ropes.
The boys’ parents had denied any wrongdoing.