Court documents released Friday reveal horrific new allegations against the adoptive parents charged with murdering 6-year-old Isabella “Ariel” Kalua, including that they kept her in a dog cage in the bathroom with duct tape on her mouth and refused to feed her.
The two appeared via a livestream from Oahu Community Correctional Center, and allowed their attorney to submit not guilty pleas of their behalf. They didn’t say a word as the state argued that they continue to be held without bail because the crimes they’re accused of carry life sentences without the possibility of parole. A judge agreed with prosecutors and said they’d continue to be held without bail.
They’re due back in court Nov. 26.
In the court documents, police say an older sibling of Isabella’s told investigators earlier this month that the adoptive parents had asked her to “keep a secret” ― that Isabella was kept in a dog cage in the bathroom with duct tape over her nose and mouth and that she “didn’t wake up.”
That sibling was then allegedly forced to help carry her sister’s lifeless body to their bedroom.
Police determined Isabella was last seen on surveillance cameras at the home on Aug. 18, according to the documents. It was on or around that date that the 6-year-old is believed to have been killed.
The couple, however, didn’t report the little girl missing until about a month later ― in mid-September.
In an interview Nov. 5 with police, the older sibling said about 3:30 a.m. on the day she last saw Isabella in the home the Kaluas went to check on the girl in the bathroom and she was lifeless.
“(The sibling) knows (Isabella) is dead because she was there. (The sibling) stated she was there because her parents woke her up,” the complaint said.
“After being woken up, she went into the bathroom and saw that (Isabella) had duct tape on her nose and mouth and was not breathing. Lehua then filled the bathtub with water and put (Isabella) in it to see if she would wake up, but did not work.
“(The sibling) then had to help carry (Isabella) to their bedroom.”
The sibling didn’t know where the couple subsequently put Isabella, the documents said.
According to the complaint, Isabella’s older sibling also told police that the Kaluas worked to get “rid of the stuff … evidence” by coming up with a ruse that allowed Isaac Kalua to take weeks off work.
As part of a series of lies, Isaac Kalua claimed to have Covid-19 and even sought medical attention.
He told police he was off Aug. 20 and “woke up feeling ill” on Aug. 21, went to an emergency room for treatment and was seen for possible Covid symptoms. He subsequently took about two weeks off work.
That series of events is important because it was about that time that police believe the couple disposed of Isabella’s body.
“A few days later Isaac went to Kaiser” and pretended that he had Covid, the sibling told police, according to the court documents. “(The sibling) stated that she knew Isaac was pretending because she knows that he took off work to ‘help mom.’ When asked why Isaac would need to help mom, (the sibling) stated ‘to get rid of the stuff … evidence.’”
In another disturbing allegation, the sibling told police Lehua Kalua bought the dog cage on the internet even though the family didn’t have a dog at the time. The sibling said Kalua got the cage because the 6-year-old would “sneak around at night and want to eat because she was hungry.”
The girl was hungry, the sibling said, because she was not being fed.
“So Lehua bought the cage to keep (Isabella) inside of it at night,” the complaint said. The sibling added that “she believes the duct tape came from Isaac’s job.”
The two reported Isabella missing Sept. 13, and claimed they had last seen the girl the evening before. Lehua Kalua told officers that the family had had dinner together and that the girl had gone to bed.
The adoptive mother also claimed that the 6-year-old had been going outside “every day or every other day and that she would say that she’s waiting for her mom to come and get her.”
According to police, those were all lies.
In addition to the ongoing police investigation, Isabella’s death is certain to raise questions about the state’s actions in placing her with the Kaluas.
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