The adoptive parents of a missing Waimanalo girl were indicted on murder charges Wednesday, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm said.

Lehua Kalua, 44, and Isaac “Sonny” Kalua, 52, were both charged with second-degree murder, hindering prosecution, endangering the welfare of a minor and persistent nonsupport in connection with the death of their adoptive daughter, 6-year-old Isabella Kalua, who was named Ariel Sellers before she was adopted.

Isabella’s adoptive mother was also charged with abuse of a family or household member, according to a press release from Alm’s office that announced the grand jury indictment.

Isaac and Lehua Kalua
Lehua and Isaac Kalua were arrested last week and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of their adoptive daughter Isabella. HPD

“The allegations in this case are heinous beyond description,” Alm said. “And we will hold Lehua and Isaac Kalua accountable for their alleged crimes against this defenseless child.”

Second-degree murder carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole, but the Kaluas both face possible sentences of life without the possibility of parole because Isabella was younger than nine years old when she was allegedly murdered.

The charges come after the pair was arrested a week ago Wednesday and made their first court appearances on Friday in a livestream from Oahu Community Correctional Center.

They are being held without bail.

According to court documents, an older sibling of Isabella’s told investigators earlier this month that the adoptive parents kept Isabella in a dog cage in the bathroom with duct tape over her nose and mouth and that she “didn’t wake up.”

Lehua Kalua then filled the bathtub with water and put the girl in it to see if she would wake up, but it did not work, according to court documents.

That sibling was also allegedly forced to help carry her sister’s body to their bedroom and was asked to “keep a secret.”

Isabella’s sister said that Lehua Kalua bought the dog cage because Isabella would sneak food at night because her adoptive mother wouldn’t feed her, according to court documents.

Lehua allegedly put duct tape on Isabella “plenty of times” and her sister said she was also duct taped on other occasions, which their adoptive father allegedly saw but did nothing about.

Isabella was last seen on surveillance cameras at the home on Aug. 18, according to court documents, which is around the time police believe she was killed.

However, the couple did not report the girl missing until a month later, in mid-September, triggering a massive search involving the community and both local and federal law enforcement agencies.

The girl’s body has not been found.

“This case has touched every person in our community and many across the country and we will do everything in our power to bring Ariel’s alleged killers to justice,” Alm said in the press release. “I thank the Honolulu Police Department and the FBI for their extraordinary efforts to investigate this matter and chase down every lead.”

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