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Police continue search of property for 6-year-old’s remains after arrests of adoptive parents

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 8:30 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2021 at 1:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Investigators resumed their search Thursday for the remains of missing 6-year-old Isabella “Ariel” Kalua, a day after her adoptive parents were charged with second-degree murder following a dramatic raid of their home.

On Wednesday evening, dozens of people, including the biological family of Kalua, gathered for a vigil for the girl — many of whom just want to know where Isabella is for closure.

Meanwhile, adoptive parents Isaac and Lehua Kalua remain behind bars without bail.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Honolulu Police Department officials painted a picture of two people who had been lying from the start ― down to when they last saw Isabella alive.

Maj. Ben Moszkowicz, head of the Criminal Investigation Division, said investigators believe the girl was murdered in mid-August. That’s a full month before she was reported missing.

Police released the mugshots this afternoon of Isaac and Lehua Kalua, the adoptive parents of...
Police released the mugshots this afternoon of Isaac and Lehua Kalua, the adoptive parents of Isabelle "Ariel."(Honolulu Police Department)

“Her photo and story touched the hearts of many in the community,” HPD interim Chief Rade Vanic said, at the news conference at HPD headquarters.

“Unfortunately, what began as a search for a missing girl turned into a murder investigation focused on the Kaluas. We believe the evidence leads to the Kaluas and no one else.”

The couple were arrested following a dramatic police operation at their home.

About 7:20 a.m. Wednesday, heavily-armed HPD and Specialized Services Division units stormed the Waimanalo house where Isabella lived with her siblings and adoptive parents.

With guns drawn, officers set off flash bangs and brought adoptive mom Lehua Kalua out in handcuffs. Isaac Kalua was later arrested at Pearl Harbor shipyard, where he works.

Isabella was reported missing in mid-September, setting off a weeks-long search assisted by droves of community volunteers. There was never any trace of her found.

Moszkowicz stressed that the investigation is still very active, not least of which because her remains have not yet been found. Police wouldn’t discuss what they believe to be the girl’s cause of death.

Moszkowicz asked anyone who may have interacted with Isabella and her sisters as far back as 2019 and through August 2021 to contact investigators on the case or Honolulu CrimeStoppers (955-8300).

“You may have important information that could help us. It’s important to remember that no detail at this point is too small,” Moszkowicz said.

On Wednesday morning, members of the girl’s biological family gathered outside the Waimanalo home in the wake of the raid. They told Hawaii News Now the arrests are the “beginning of the end” and hoped they would soon get some information about what actually happened to Isabella.

“Very emotional. It’s the beginning, it’s the start for us. It’s hard,” said biological aunt Lana Idao.

The Kaluas reported Isabella missing on Sept. 12.

They told police that she had last been seen the previous evening in her room on Puha Street. Isabella’s adoptive parents claimed she frequently slept outside.

Attorney William Harrison, who was helping the Kaluas, said in September that the family had been helping police but did not participate in the search because of online threats.

Lt. Deena Thoemmes said on Wednesday that the Kaluas stopped cooperating as the investigation continued, however. She said initially the couple even let police into their home and gave statements.

Investigators also said that developments in the last 10 days led to the couple’s arrest.

The girl’s biological family and volunteers, meanwhile, have held rallies in Waimanalo in front of the Kalua house and at Child Welfare Services hoping to get more answers.

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HNN has previously reported that Isabella had two serious injuries in the past two years that were investigated by Child Welfare Services.

In both cases, a panel of experts determined there was no maltreatment.

This story will be updated.

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