Brother of man who fatally stabbed adoptive mother speaks out about alleged abuse

Updated: May. 10, 2019 at 5:37 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kaanoi Kipapa, the young man who killed his adoptive mother in 2014 when he was 16 years old, claimed he was abused for years.

Now, his adopted brother is backing him up.

"Of course he's telling the truth," said Taylor-James Mendiola.

Mendiola says he was one of 11 kids Jolyn Kipapa and her husband adopted. He says he was part of their family from infancy to age 19.

He says what Kaanoi did to Jolyn Kipapa — fatally stabbing her in the family home — was brutal and cold-hearted. But when he heard the family deny Kaanoi was abused, he says he had to speak up.

“All the years that I was in that home was really hard,” Mendiola said. “The abuse really scared us. The bullying of being gay was just unbelievable. I still have nightmares of them in my dreams. I get up at night hyperventilating, screaming.”

Mendiola, who is now 24 years old, says the physical and mental abuse were so constant he grew up thinking it was normal.

He says the foster and adopted children were forced to do chores for hours every day, the refrigerator and cupboards were locked, and security cameras watched their every move.

“The oversight by the state and law enforcement just wasn’t there that should’ve been there for us. That made me yearn so much for my (biological) family or answers for me,” Mendiola said, through tears.

In the eight grade, Mendiola says he was pulled out of school. But instead of being homeschooled, he said he was forced to pick up trash all day.

He says depression, combined with the abuse, made him want to give up.

So at 16, he tried to kill himself.

"My other sister, adopted sister, luckily saved my life. She cut that rope and she saved my life," Mendiola said.

At Kaanoi's sentencing, loved ones of Jolynn Kipapa said she was a strict, but caring mother who treated all of the children like they were her own.

“She dreamed of having a huge family,” said Kurlyn Kipapa, Kipapa’s biological daughter.

“But due to complications after having me, she wasn’t able to have any more children. That’s what pushed her to become a foster parent and opened her heart to adoption. She loved all her children.”

They said Kaanoi Kipapa lied about the abuse, and they were shocked he only received eight years for such a heinous crime.

“He has taken one innocent life and ruined many lives,” said Daljean Kipapa, Kipapa’s daughter-in-law. “He tore apart an entire family and labeled my in-laws as monsters.”

The stories of abuse were considered by the judge, who sentenced Kipapa as a youthful offender. With time served, he’ll be a free man in three years.

The state Department of Human Services says it can't disclose if any complaints or reports were made against the Kipapas.

Steve Lane, who has served as a court-appointed investigator on several high-profile child abuse cases, says there are protocols in place to ensure foster children are being cared for, but once they're adopted, there's hardly any oversight.

"The adopted family becomes the child's legal guardian and person responsible for that child, so there isn't really anyone to monitor that child at that point," Lane said.

For Mendiola, he says there are still so many unanswered questions about his adoption. He says he plans to file reports to start his own investigation.

Mendiola is going to college and studying journalism. He says he wants to become a writer and, eventually, a father.

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