'Peter Boy' Kema's parents indicted, 19 years after his death
HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The parents of "Peter Boy" Kema, Jr. have been indicted in the 1997 death of their 6-year-old son, a major breakthrough in one of Hawaii's most well-known unsolved murder cases.
Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema were indicted by a Hilo grand jury on Thursday afternoon. Both were charged with second-degree murder, and pleaded not guilty in court on Friday.
Peter Kema, Sr.'s bail has been set at $500,000, while bail for Jaylin Kema was set at $150,000.
Speaking to reporters after the indictment was handed down, Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said the charges have been "a long time coming."
"Peter Boy, this Sunday, would have been 25 years old," he said.
Hawaii County deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said the charges wouldn't have been possible without the help of the community.
"We'd like to thank the members of the community ... civilians that came forward over the years and helped move this case forward," he said. "Even the community didn't forget."
Peter Boy disappeared from his Hawaii Island home in 1997. His body was never found, but police concluded that he was murdered.
On Nov. 4, both his parents were arrested on unrelated charges. His father was brought in on drug and firearms offenses, but later released pending investigation. Jaylin Kema was charged with welfare fraud.
Peter Boy's parents have long been the main suspects in their son's disappearance, but police were never able to gather the evidence needed to file charges.
After Peter Boy's parents were arrested last year, his younger sister made a public plea to their mother to "say something."
"Just come out already. It's time to come out," said sister Lina Acol. "We all want to know what happened."
Peter Boy's disappearance in 1997 set off intense police investigations and a media firestorm. It also raised serious questions about state Child Protective Services, and triggered a series of reforms aimed at better protecting abused kids.
The Kemas had been facing state CPS investigations for years before Peter Boy's death, and documents showed he had been the victim of repeated incidents of abuse. At just 3 months old, he was brought to Hilo Hospital with multiple new and healing fractures.
Peter Boy's parents didn't officially report him missing until January 1998, months after he was last seen alive.
Later, Peter Boy, Sr. would say that he had traveled to Oahu in August 1997 to look for a job, and had given the boy to a friend he knew as "Auntie Rose" Makuakane. Police were never able to find evidence that the woman existed, and couldn't confirm the father and son had been on a plane.
Meanwhile, his mother told CPS investigators that her son had moved out of the house in June 1997.
In 2014, Hawaii County officials announced they had new leads in the case, but stressed that moving forward with charges would take time.
Peter Boy's siblings have spoken publicly about their pain, and tried to recount what they remembered from all those years ago.
Acol, Peter Boy's younger sister, told Hawaii News Now in 2014 that she believes she saw her brother's lifeless body in a box in 1997, when she was 4.
"At the time, I seen my mom. It looked like she was trying to kiss him and then, I saw my dad trying to beat on his chest. I opened the door more, cause the door was cracked, and they just yelled at me to go back to sleep," said Acol, who later realized her parents were probably giving Peter Boy CPR.
Acol said later the same day she saw Peter Boy in a box in her parents' closet, and they told him he was sleeping.
Mobile users: Click here to see a timeline of Peter Boy's life and the investigation into his disappearance.
Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.