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Lawsuit filed in ‘Peter Boy’ death

The estate the late Peter Kema Jr. and Kema Jr.’s siblings are suing the state of Hawaii, the Department of Human Services and Kema Jr.’s parents, claiming the 1997 death of the chronically abused Big Island boy could have been prevented.

The suit was filed Wednesday in Honolulu Circuit Court by attorney Randall Rosenberg on behalf of the estate and Kema Jr.’s siblings, Chauntelle Acol, Allan Acol and Lina Acol. The complaint alleges negligence by the state and DHS Child Protective Services workers for returing the child known as “Peter Boy” to the care of his parents, Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema, despite evidence of abuse. It also alleges negligence by Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema in the abuse of the boy that led to his death in 1997 and their fraudulent concealment of the boy’s death until 2016.

The suit seeks general, special and punitive damages for the estate and Peter Boy’s siblings.

A special master, Stephen W. Lane, was appointed by Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto to investigate the circumstances of Peter Boy’s death and and determine if the boy’s estate had a legal basis for filing a claim. Lane’s report found “substantial evidence of colorable claims against the state of Hawaii DHS/CPS and others arising out of the care and treatment of Peter Boy and his siblings,” who were also abused.

A Hilo grand jury indicted Kema and her husband, Peter Kema Sr., in April 2016 for the death of Peter Boy, whose disappearance 20 years ago sparked a statewide media firestorm. Authorities had long believed the boy to be dead, although no body had been found. Kema Sr. had told police he had left the child in 1997 with “Aunty Rose Makuakane” as a hanai, or informal Hawaiian adoption.

Authorities didn’t believe the story, couldn’t find the woman who was allegedly given the boy and couldn’t find any evidence Kema Sr. and Kema Jr. flew from Hawaii Island to Oahu.

Jaylin Kema pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December 2016.

“I failed to protect my son,” Jaylin Kema said, tearfully, in court.

She was sentenced in June 2017 to 10 years probation and a year in jail, time she had already served.

Kema Sr. pleaded guilty to manslaughter and first-degree hindering prosecution in April 2017 as part of a deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in July.

Peter Boy’s body was never found, but the Kemas admitted the child died of septic shock after they failed to provide sufficient medical treatment for an injury to his arm, which was caused by Kema Sr.

Kema Sr.’s plea deal called for him to show authorities where he left Peter Boy’s body, and if no remains were found, to pass a polygraph test. Kema took police and prosecutors to a remote area of Puna coastline near MacKenzie State Recreation Area, where he said he set the boy’s body adrift in a cardboard box after an unsuccessful attempt to incinerate the remains.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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