The Kemas have long been suspects in their son’s disappearance, but prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence to charge them until last year, when a grand jury indicted the couple on murder counts.
After Peter vanished in 1997, he became the face of a Hawaii campaign for missing and abused children in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Posters and bumper stickers asked, “So where’s Peter?”
Peter Kema told authorities that he took his son from the Big Island to Oahu and gave him to someone named “Aunty Rose Makuakane” in an informal adoption. Police could not find a woman as described by Kema or airline records that indicated he had flown there.
Sometime between May and June 1997, the couple’s then-4-year-old daughter heard Jayline Kema calling out for her husband and saw her trying to resuscitate the boy, prosecutors said. The girl later saw her brother in a box, prosecutors said.
In 2005, then-state Human Services Director Lillian Koller released more than 2,000 pages of heavily redacted documents, detailing allegations of abuse suffered by Peter and his siblings at the hands of their father.