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‘Our keiki deserve it’: Calls grow for tougher sentencing in child murder cases

Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 6:37 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 12, 2021 at 7:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Isaac and Lehua Kalua are both charged with second-degree murder for allegedly killing their adoptive daughter 6-year-old Isabella “Ariel” Kalua.

Normally, a second-degree murder charge in Hawaii carries a penalty of life in person with the possibility of parole.

However, an enhanced sentencing applies to children 8 years old and younger. Therefore, the Kaluas face a life sentence without parole.

“I feel that it’s a just punishment, especially when we’re talking about young children who are defenseless,” said advocate Nonohe Botelho.

Botelho has been fighting for tougher penalties for murderers since her son Joel, an all-star quarterback for Castle High School, was gunned down in Kaneohe in 2011.

She believes that killing a child, no matter the age, should be a first-degree murder charge — that carries an automatic life sentence without parole.

“We need support we need people to come and testify. We need a public outcry on this because we cannot sit back anymore or watch children die at the hands of their foster parents, their parents or any adult,” Botelho said.

“Our community needs it, and our keiki deserve it, we are supposed to protect them,” said another advocate, Kimberlyn Scott.

Scott’s daughter Charli was pregnant when she was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend Steven Capobianco on Maui in 2014.

She too wants Hawaii’s law amended to make it an automatic first-degree murder charge if you kill any child. It’s the same penalty as if you kill a law enforcement officer, judge or prosecutor.

“Whoever did this to her. They deserve to be penalized to the fullest extent of the law, and that works as a preventative as well because it shows that we take this seriously as a community and we won’t tolerate it,” Scott said.

“Forty-two other states have children on their first-degree murder law, we do not,” said Botelho.

Botelho said they hope to have a bill ready by January for next year’s legislative session.

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