Hawaii

Hawaii human services could have saved boy, expert says

A Hawaii court-appointed expert filed a report in Hilo Family Court declaring the state Department of Human Services could be held liable for not doing a better job of protecting a child who ended up dead.

Peter "Peter Boy" Kema Jr. went missing in 1997 when he was 6 years old. His father, Peter Kema, pleaded guilty last week to manslaughter in the boy's death, officials said.

The court's special master, Stephen Lane, said "Peter Boy" Kema and his siblings were returned back to their parents' home despite multiple removals for possible child abuse, Hawaii News Now reported (http://bit.ly/2obUhIq) Thursday. A human services spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment Friday, a state holiday.

Kema has been sentenced to 20 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of six years and eight months if he helps authorities find the remains of his son.

"Peter Boy" suffered a severe arm injury sometime between December 1996 and February 1997, which was left untreated by his parents, Lane said in the report. The smell of his arm's infection became a reason for his parents to keep him isolated in a "stink room," according to the report.

After months of staying in the room, a 15-year-old cousin of "Peter Boy" told a therapist Peter Kema was feeding his injured son dog feces, according to the report. The therapist reportedly told the state Department of Human Services about the cousin's comments on April 4, 1997.

The department acted on the therapist's tip in June 1997 and found Peter Boy to be missing from the family's residence, according to the report.

This is allegedly where child protective services violated the law by not responding to reports that "Peter Boy" was injured until two months after the tip, Lane said. "There was overwhelming evidence that Peter Kema, Sr. and Jaylin Kema were unfit, violent and abusive parents, yet family reunification continued to be the goal of the state," he said.

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Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/