An advocate for ‘Peter Boy’
Representative to determine if there are grounds for a wrongful death civil suit
A special master will determine if the estate of Peter Kema Jr., aka “Peter Boy,” has a claim for the years of abuse the child suffered before he disappeared and was presumed murdered at age 6 in 1997.
Hilo Family Court Judge Henry Nakamoto on Wednesday appointed Stephen W. Lane as a special master, without compensation, to ascertain whether there are grounds for a wrongful death civil lawsuit to be filed on behalf of Peter Boy’s estate and to retain counsel to represent the estate.
“My charge from the court is to examine the circumstances of Peter Kema’s (Jr.) life and disappearance by gaining access to the records the state and others might have and then reach a conclusion as to whether or not I think there are any … claims that arise from that review of those documents,” Lane said Thursday. “I’ll file a report with the family court with respect to that and probably make recommendations.”
Lane is a private investigator, former foster parent and court-appointed guardian who does paralegal work in child advocacy. He said the legal protocol allowing a special master to determine tort liability for children who are or were in foster care or wards of the state was established last year by Honolulu Circuit Judge R. Mark Browning.
“Bear in mind, wards of the state and foster children were
really disenfranchised. They were frozen out,” Lane explained. “They had no access to attorneys because of their minority status and because of their ward status with the state. So this, I thought, was a sea change that Judge Browning brought about by making it possible for foster kids or wards of the state to get access to an attorney if they get hurt, like everyone else has.”
The order appointing Lane as special master is valid as long as there are civil or criminal proceedings, including appeals, regarding Peter Boy.
“I’ve been thinking about this case for a long time,” Lane said. “And it wasn’t until the Big Island’s Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was able to indict somebody and charge somebody with (Peter Boy’s) presumptive death, that it occurred to me that anything else could possibly be done.”
Nakamoto’s order requires the state Department of Human Services and Child Welfare Services, formerly Child Protective Services, “to produce all records and files unredacted related to Peter Kema Jr.” and his siblings. Lane also is empowered to subpoena documents and records from individuals and agencies related to the investigation.
All documents obtained for Lane’s investigation are to remain confidential.
Peter Boy and his siblings, Chauntelle Acol, Allan Acol and Lina Acol, all were taken by CPS from Jaylin Kema, the children’s mother, and Peter Kema Sr., Peter Boy’s and Lina’s biological father, after repeated evidence of abuse cropped up. All the children eventually were returned more than once to the Kemas, despite warnings they were unfit parents. Peter Boy went missing in 1997, although he was not reported missing until the following year.
Kema Sr. told police he took the boy to Honolulu and left him with an “Aunty Rose Makuakane.” Authorities didn’t believe him and couldn’t find airline records to corroborate his account.
The boy’s body still hasn’t been found.
Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema were indicted for Peter Boy’s murder on April 28, 2016.
In a deal with prosecutors, Jaylin Kema pleaded guilty Dec. 1 to manslaughter, tearfully telling now retired Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara “I failed to protect my son.”
Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville told the judge a forensic pathologist will testify Peter Boy’s death was probably from septic shock due to a festering wound on his arm caused by abuse from Kema Sr., and because his parents — despite having medical insurance — didn’t provide the boy timely medical attention.
Jaylin Kema has agreed to testify against her husband. Kema Sr.’s trial is scheduled to start Jan. 23 before Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, but likely will be delayed until April, Damerville said.
According to Lane’s petition for appointment, Peter Boy hasn’t been legally declared dead, which is a civil matter. His estate hasn’t been established and a representative hadn’t previously been appointed “to represent (Peter Boy’s) interests relating to his disappearance and/or death.” The filing states Peter Boy’s siblings were referred to Lane and they sought his appointment.
Lane said he’ll “wait for the outcome of the criminal proceedings, in deference to” Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth.
“The case is already ongoing and I don’t want to do anything that will cause prejudice or delay … and wait for the outcome … before making any recommendations to the court or others as to what claims there may be of a civil nature,” he said.
Lane added he won’t be able to determine who might be defendants in a wrongful death civil lawsuit until he’s examined the records.
“For example, in past cases in which I’ve been involved, there have been other public or private agencies that have been involved in decisions made by CPS who’ve turned out to be prospective defendants. So, I don’t want to prejudge that until I’ve had a chance to see all the records,” he said.
The best possible outcome of the investigation, Lane said, would be “justice for this poor child.”
“What’s unique about this case is this is a child whose been missing for nearly 20 years, who, by all accounts, especially by the (redacted) records released by (former state Department of Human Services director) Lillian Koller … was tortured almost every day of his life,” he said. “… And the state kept sending him back again and again to a family that was demonstrably unfit and violent, in my opinion.”