KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Sunday, on what would have been "Peter Boy" Kema's 25th birthday, his family gathered for a small memorial at Old A's Beach in Kona.
It's an annual tradition. But this year was different.
"I know that something is happening and we can smile a little more," said Allan Acol, Peter Boy's brother.
On April 28, Peter Boy's parents were indicted in the 1997 murder of their 6-year-old son, whose body was never found. Peter Kema Sr. and his wife, Jaylin, have pleaded not guilty.
Peter Boy's younger sister, Lina Acol, said the charges are a relief of sorts for a family still seeking justice and answers after nearly two decades.
"It's a relief knowing that something is getting done," she said.
Lina and Allan Acol were young when their 6-year old brother disappeared, but they remember the beatings they all endured from their father, Peter Kema, Sr. The two say Peter Boy got the brunt of the abuse: Daily beatings, forced to eat his own feces, thrown into the trunk of the car on family outings.
State Child Protective Services workers eventually took the kids away, sending them to live with their grandparents. But CPS eventually returned them to the Kemas and the beatings resumed.
In 1997, Lina Acol was just 4. But she says she still remembers the day when she last saw Peter Boy. She recalls seeing Peter Boy's dead body in a box in her parents' closet. And she remembers her father taking the box away.
She never saw her brother again.
Two years ago, Hawaii County Police and prosecutors dusted off the Peter Boy case. Part of that work included interviewing the siblings again. They showed Acol interviews she did with police as a child and that triggered memories that contributed to some of the new evidence to be presented at trial.
"Seeing the interviews again, it kind of just brought back a lot," she said. "The little details is what clicked afterward."
In November, police arrested Peter and Jaylin Kema for welfare fraud and gun crimes. The arrests were part of an effort to get the couple physically separated so that one would turn against the other.
Acol saw that as a chance to rekindle a relationship with her mother, and possibly get her to reveal any details she might have about Peter Boy's disappearance.
"It was off and on," Acol told Hawaii News Now. "She (Jaylin) would text me late at night, saying Peter was being abusive."
Acol says she would tell her mom to leave and never go back, but to no avail.
Acol also arranged secret meetings with her mother. And she brought her toddler, Luke. She hoped that if Jaylin formed a relationship with her grandson, she would see how she was missing out on a life with family. Acol says the meetings appeared to be having an impact. Her mom once told her Luke resembled Peter Boy.
Jaylin Kema still hasn't turned into a witness, but the siblings are hopeful that she will. Time is running out, though. The couple's trials are scheduled for the fall.
"I want her to at least say what happened," Allan Acol said. "Honestly, not for me, but for my grandpa. He wants to know what happened."
Their grandparents raised the other kids after Peter Boy's disappearance, when CPS took them away from the Kemas permanently. Their grandmother died a few years ago, but made them promise that they would not stop searching for answers.
Lina Acol say the indictments have given their grandfather hope that the search may be coming to an end soon.
On the day the Kemas were arrested, Acol said, she found her grandfather crying.
"He was singing the songs that he used to sing with Peter Boy, too. He even had Peter Boy's picture next to my grandma's (picture), lit a candle and said his prayers to them."
Back at Old A's Beach, during the birthday memorial, the family placed a smiling photo of Peter Boy with his siblings in the sand.
A single flower rests in front of the photo. On the photo, a family member wrote: "Happy Birthday Peter Boy."
Mobile users: Click here to see a timeline of Peter Boy's life and the investigation into his disappearance.