2017 in review: After 20 years, an end to Peter Boy's murder mystery

2017 in review: After 20 years, an end to Peter Boy's murder mystery
Peter Boy Kema (Image: Kema Family)
Peter Boy Kema (Image: Kema Family)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As we near the end of 2017, Hawaii News Now is taking a look back at the biggest stories that emerged over the course of a turbulent year for Hawaii.

There will never truly be justice for Peter Boy Kema, but 2017 was the year that the 20-year mystery surrounding his disappearance came to an end – and the year his father went to prison for his death.

The smile of Peter Kema, Jr. – more commonly remembered as Peter Boy – would haunt the conscience of the Big Island as they asked "Where's Peter Boy?" after the six-year-old went missing in 1997.

Parents Jaylin and Peter Kema, Sr. told the press they had givenhim to an aunt on Oahu, but as 2017 approached, the lie finally began to unravel.

"I failed to protect my son," Jaylin Kema told a Hawaii Island courtroom in December of 2016.

After spending time in jail, away from her controlling husband, Jaylin Kema made a deal. She would testify against him in return for a manslaughter charge that carried a year in prison and ten years of probation.

For months prior to the admission, the Kemas had been denying guilt despite already having been indicted for murder. Without a body and no eyewitnesses to the crime, the case depended on her.

The tactic worked, and in April, Peter Kema, Sr. made his own deal.

"Are you pleading guilty of your own free will?" a judge asked.

"Yes, your honor," Kema replied.

The story was about much more than Peter Boy's disappearance. There was also blame directed at state Child Protective Services employees, who returned the boy to his abusive and ignored evidence he was being tortured.

Authorities believe the boy died from an untreated infection, and as a result, Hawaii's relief at the confession was muted by sorrow.

"I don't care if he's sentenced to whatever, I think we all know nothing is going to take away the sadness of it," said Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim. "Nothing is going to take away feelings of what did happen."

Kema pleaded to the lesser charge of manslaughter, avoiding the uncertainty that awaited him if the case went to trial. His sentence was for up to 20 years in prison.

"If we didn't get that deal then they probably would have walked away and gotten nothing, so I mean, at least he'll get something," Allan Acol, Peter Boy's older brother.

Kema's deal included a promise to reveal where he had put his son's remains, and he eventually led investigators to a remote shoreline in Kona. it was far too late to find Peter Boy, but his final resting place was a comfort to his siblings and grandfather.

In September, his family joined hundreds in Kona to celebrate Peter Boy's life – a memorial 20 years in the making.

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