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‘A clear red flag’: Records show adoptive parents previously investigated for suspected abuse

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:59 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii News Now has learned of three separate abuse investigations involving a Waimanalo couple now accused of killing a 6-year old girl they fostered then adopted.

Isabella ‘Ariel’ Kalua was adopted in January 2021, by Lehua and Isaac Kalua, but the couple had been her foster parents for years prior.

The first investigation triggered a Honolulu Police Department response on July 22, 2019.

The report says a Child Welfare Services caseworker turned over records to HPD about possible abuse but the case was quickly closed.

“After a thorough review of the circumstances, it was determined that there will be no action taken by HPD in this case,” the report synopsis said.

The document continued, “The welfare of the child would best be met by the actions of CWS instead of the HPD” and it said the caseworker had made contact with children. The record said the child “was well cared for.”

Former foster parent and child advocate Stephen Lane said CWS should have also passed on the records to family court.

“Report it to the judge,” Lane said, “Had they done so, a judge in family court in Ariel’s case would have appointed a special master to investigate those allegations.”

The second abuse investigation happened three months later in October 2019.

The girl suffered a broken finger, which wasn’t reported quickly, sources told Hawaii News Now.

The Kaluas responded saying a sibling slammed the girl’s hand in a door accidentally. A multidisciplinary panel reviewed the case and determined there was ‘no maltreatment’.

Three months later in January 2020, Isabella ‘Ariel’ Kalua had a broken leg. Then, the adoptive parents said in that case that she was hurt on a trampoline.

Again a multidisciplinary panel, made up of experts including doctors, determined, ‘no maltreatment’.

Lane said the use of panels were a sign.

“A multidisciplinary team is only convened when they suspect abuse,” Lane said.

“It’s a clear red flag to me that CPS considered there was abuse taking place on at least two occasions.”

The Hawaii Department of Human Services, which is over Child Welfare Services declined to comment citing the ongoing investigation.

Isaac and Lehua Kalua were arrested earlier this month in an early morning operation by HPD officers from the Special Services Division.

Both were indicted for murder, endangering the welfare of a child, and hindering prosecution.

Court records say they starved the girl and kept her locked in a dog cage.

The documents say Isabella ‘Ariel’ was found dead sometime in August, with duct tape over her nose and mouth.

Prosecutors said the couple spent days cleaning the home and getting rid of evidence.

The girl’s remains have not been found.

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