HONOLULU (AP) — The parents of a Hawaii six-year-old boy who disappeared 20 years ago had long been suspects, but without a body, there never has been any concrete confirmation that the child known as "Peter Boy" was dead until his mother pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year and agreed to testify against her husband.
The boy hasn't been found, but authorities now know where his father says he dumped his remains. That development was spurred by Jaylin Kema accepting a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter, agreeing in court to facts a prosecutor laid out about abuse suffered by the boy, her failure to get him medical treatment and his eventual death.
Her plea deal called for a one-year jail sentence, with credit for time served.
A judge granted her supervised release on Thursday, the day that marked one year of incarceration. She was allowed to leave the Hawaii Community Correctional Center soon after returning from a court hearing, said state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz.
When she pleaded guilty, she agreed to waive her marital privilege and testify against her husband, Peter Kema Sr. But instead of going to trial, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this month in a deal with prosecutors requiring him to reveal where Peter Boy's remains are in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence.
On Sunday, while shackled and accompanied by his defense attorney, he rode in a van with police and prosecutors and guided them to a site in the Big Island's rural Puna district where he says he disposed of the remains, said Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth, who declined to disclose specifics about the location.
Police will need help from outside agencies to try to find the remains, Roth said.
Roth and police accompanied Peter Boy's siblings, grandfather and an aunt to the site Wednesday, where the family said prayers, lit a candle and carried a lei for Peter Boy.
On the drive there it suddenly rained, Roth recalled after the outing. "We talked about it being tears from heaven. It was like Peter Boy crying, 'they're finally coming for me,'" Roth said. "When we got to the scene, not a drop of rain. The sun came out."
Family members collected some soil from the area, Roth said.
After Peter Boy vanished in 1997, he became the face of a Hawaii campaign for missing and abused children in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Posters and bumper stickers asked, "So where's Peter?"
Prosecutors believe the boy died of septic shock from not getting medical care for an arm injury.
Despite having health insurance, his mother did not get her son medical treatment and did not report the abuse because she was afraid of her husband, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Damerville said after her plea hearing.
She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13. Her plea agreement calls for 10 years of probation and the year she has already served in jail. Her release before sentencing is contingent on her undergoing drug testing, not leaving the Big Island and having no contact with her children, Damerville said.
She plans to return to the Puna home where she lived when she was arrested on welfare fraud charges, said her court-appointed attorney, Brian De Lima. The Kemas were separated at the time, he said.
Keeping them apart during their incarceration was key to the case because prosecuting them without a body would be difficult, Roth said.
Peter Kema had long ago told authorities that he took his son from the Big Island to Oahu and gave him to someone named "Aunty Rose Makuakane" in an informal adoption. Police could not find a woman as described by Kema or airline records that indicated he had flown there.
If Peter Boy's remains can't be recovered, Kema must pass a polygraph test. Roth said it seems like Kema is being truthful about the location. "However, they lied for 20 years, so I'm cautiously optimistic," he said.