Adoptive parents charged with murder of missing 6-year-old from Hawaii
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The adoptive parents of 6-year-old Isabella “Ariel” Kalua, whose reported disappearance in mid-September sparked a massive, multi-agency search, were arrested and charged with murder.
Isaac and Lehua Kalua are both being held without bail, Hawaii News Now reports.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Honolulu Police Department officials painted a picture of two people who had been lying from the start ― down to when they last saw Isabella alive.
Maj. Ben Moszkowicz, head of the Criminal Investigation Division, said investigators believe the girl was murdered in mid-August. That’s a full month before she was reported missing.
Isabella’s body has not been recovered. Searches of the Kaluas’ property continue, however.
“Her photo and story touched the hearts of many in the community,” said HPD interim Chief Rade Vanic at the news conference at HPD headquarters. “Unfortunately, what began as a search for a missing girl turned into a murder investigation focused on the Kaluas. We believe the evidence leads to the Kaluas and no one else.”
The couple were arrested following a dramatic police operation at their home Wednesday morning.
About 7:20 a.m., heavily-armed HPD and Specialized Services Division units stormed the Waimanalo house where Isabella lived with her siblings and adoptive parents.
With guns drawn, officers set off flash bangs and brought adoptive mom Lehua Kalua out in handcuffs. Isaac Kalua was later arrested at Pearl Harbor shipyard, where he works.
Isabella was reported missing Sept. 12, setting off a weeks-long search assisted by droves of community volunteers. There was never any trace of her found.
Moszkowicz stressed that the investigation is still very active, not least of which because her remains have not yet been found. Police wouldn’t discuss what they believe to be the girl’s cause of death.
Moszkowicz asked anyone who may have interacted with Isabella and her sisters as far back as 2019 and through August 2021 to contact investigators on the case or Honolulu CrimeStoppers (955-8300).
“You may have important information that could help us. It’s important to remember that no detail at this point is too small,” Moszkowicz said.
On Wednesday morning, members of the girl’s biological family gathered outside the Waimanalo home in the wake of the raid. They told HNN the arrests are the “beginning of the end” and hoped they would soon get some information about what actually happened to Isabella.
“Very emotional. It’s the beginning. It’s the start for us. It’s hard,” said biological aunt Lana Idao.
When the Kaluas reported Isabella missing, they told police that she had last been seen the previous evening in her room on Puha Street. Isabella’s adoptive parents claimed she frequently slept outside.
Attorney William Harrison, who was helping the Kaluas, said in September that the family had been helping police but did not participate in the search because of online threats.
Lt. Deena Thoemmes said on Wednesday that the Kaluas stopped cooperating, however.
She said initially the couple even let police into their home and gave statements. But as the investigation continued, the two stopped helping police.
Investigators also said that developments in the last 10 days led to the couple’s arrests.
The girl’s biological family and volunteers, meanwhile, have held rallies in Waimanalo in front of the Kalua house and at Child Welfare Services hoping to get more answers.
- More than 3 weeks since 6-year-old’s disappearance, community continues to seek answers
- Missing girl had serious injuries investigated by state in past 2 years
- Attorney: Missing girl’s adoptive family ‘fully cooperative’ with police
- At candlelight vigil, a community seeking answers vows to ‘leave a light on’ for missing child
HNN has previously reported that Isabella had two serious injuries in the past two years that were investigated by Child Welfare Services.
In both cases, a panel of experts determined there was no maltreatment.
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