Court documents reveal horrific allegations against adoptive parents charged with murdering girl
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Court documents released Friday reveal horrific new allegations against the adoptive parents charged with murdering 6-year-old Isabella “Ariel” Kalua, including that they kept her in a dog cage in the bathroom with duct tape on her mouth and refused to feed her.
The graphic new details were included in a complaint made public Friday, the same day Isaac and Lehua Kalua made their first appearance in court for the missing girl’s murder.
The two appeared via a livestream from Oahu Community Correctional Center, and allowed their attorney to submit not guilty pleas of their behalf. They didn’t say a word as the state argued that they continue to be held without bail because the crimes they’re charged with carry an extended sentence of life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Tiffany Kaeo also argued that the Kaluas could be a flight risk.
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“Isaac Kalua has ties to the continental United States. He does have prior convictions for assaultive behavior,” said Kaeo.
The judge agreed, which means the two will remain in jail at least until their next scheduled court appearance Nov. 26.
Meanwhile, investigators were back at the Kaluas’ home Friday as they continued a search of the property. Isabella’s remains have not yet been found.
Outside of the home in Waimanalo on Friday, Isabella’s biological family also gathered to mourn and to promise that they would fight for custody of the little girl’s siblings.
“Everyone’s very disgusted and hurt. I personally, I am all cried out,” said Alena Kaeo, Isabella’s biological aunt. “And this has definitely given me more of a boost to fight for the girls to bring them home safely, where they belong with us as biological family members.”
In the court documents made public Friday, police say an older sibling of Isabella’s told investigators earlier this month the Kaluas had asked her to “keep a secret” ― that Isabella was kept in a dog cage in the bathroom with duct tape over her nose and mouth and that she “didn’t wake up.”
That sibling was then allegedly forced to help carry her sister’s lifeless body to their bedroom. The biological family said the sibling was just 12. But the court documents make clear that she was crucial in helping police piece together the timeline of events surrounding Isabella’s death.
Police said Isabella was last seen on surveillance cameras at the home on Aug. 18, according to the documents. It was on or around that date that the 6-year-old is believed to have been killed.
The couple, however, didn’t report the little girl missing until about a month later ― in mid-September.
In an interview Nov. 5 with police, the older sibling said about 3:30 a.m. on the day she last saw Isabella in the home the Kaluas went to check on the girl in the bathroom and she was lifeless.
“(The sibling) knows (Isabella) is dead because she was there. (The sibling) stated she was there because her parents woke her up,” the complaint said.
“After being woken up, she went into the bathroom and saw that (Isabella) had duct tape on her nose and mouth and was not breathing. Lehua then filled the bathtub with water and put (Isabella) in it to see if she would wake up, but it did not work.
“(The sibling) then had to help carry (Isabella) to their bedroom.”
The sibling didn’t know where the couple subsequently put Isabella’s body, the documents said.
According to the complaint, Isabella’s older sibling also told police that the Kaluas worked to get “rid of the stuff ... evidence” by coming up with a ruse that allowed Isaac Kalua to take weeks off work.
As part of a series of lies, Isaac Kalua claimed to have COVID and even sought medical attention.
He told police he was off Aug. 20 and “woke up feeling ill” on Aug. 21, went to an ER for treatment and was seen for possible COVID symptoms. He subsequently took about two weeks off work.
That series of events is important because it was about that time investigators believe the couple disposed of Isabella’s body.
“Isaac went to Kaiser to ‘pretend that he was COVID,’” the sibling told police, according to the court documents. “(The sibling) stated that she knew Isaac was pretending because she knows that he took off work to ‘help mom.’ When asked why Isaac would need to help mom, (the sibling) stated ‘to get rid of the stuff ... evidence.’”
In another disturbing allegation, the sibling told police Lehua Kalua bought the dog cage on the internet even though the family didn’t have a dog at the time. The sibling said Kalua got the cage because the 6-year-old would “sneak around at night and want to eat because she was hungry.”
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The girl was hungry, the sibling said, because she was not being fed.
“So Lehua bought the cage to keep (Isabella) inside of it at night,” the complaint said. The sibling added that “she believes the duct tape came from Isaac’s job.”
The Kaluas reported Isabella missing Sept. 13, setting off a massive multi-agency search that also included hundreds of community members and the girl’s biological family.
The adoptive parents claimed they had last seen the girl the evening before. Lehua Kalua told officers the family had had dinner together and that the girl had gone to bed.
The adoptive mother also told police that the 6-year-old had been going outside “every day or every other day and that she would say that she’s waiting for her mom to come and get her.”
According to police, those were all lies.
In addition to the ongoing police investigation, Isabella’s death is certain to raise questions about the state’s actions in placing her with the Kaluas. Hawaii News Now has reported that Kalua twice had serious injuries in the past two years that were reported to Child Welfare Services.
The incidents were investigated and a panel determined there was no maltreatment.
This story will be updated.
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