Missing Since: September 11, 1997 from Honolulu, Hawaii
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: May 1, 1991
Age: 6 years old
Height and Weight: 4'0, 50 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Multiracial male. Black hair, brown eyes. Peter is of Filipino, Spanish, Chinese and Hawaiian descent. His nicknames are Peter Boy and Pepe.
Medical Conditions: Peter has a history of bronchitis and upper respiratory infections.
Details of Disappearance
Peter Jr.'s mother, Jaylin Maureen Acol Kema, told authorities she last saw her son sometime during August 1997. His father, Peter Kema Sr., claimed that he brought the child with him when he traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to search for employment during the month. Photographs of Jaylin and Peter Sr. are posted below this case summary. Peter Sr. claimed that he and his son were homeless and lived in a tent in A'ala Park with eighteen other people during the time. He told authorities that he never completed any job applications, as businesses were not hiring new workers.
Peter Sr. allegedly gave his son to a family friend named "Auntie" Rose Makuakane on August 19, 1997 in A'ala Park. A sketch of Makuakane is posted below this case summary. Peter Sr. claimed that he and his wife could no longer provide for Peter Jr. and Makuakane, who did not have children, was better able to care for their son. He said he stayed with them for several days to make sure Peter Jr. was getting along with Makuakane. Peter Sr. said that Makuakane was a lauhala weaver and frequently sold hats in the park during the weekend for $5 each. He also claimed that she was a cousin from his stepfather's family and a longtime friend, though he had not seen her since 1982.
Peter Sr. produced a copy of a letter which he said he had written to Makuakane. The letter stated that Peter Sr. was surrendering his parental rights to Peter Jr. and was giving Makuakane custody of the child. The letter was dated September 11, 1997 rather than August 19, the date Peter Sr. had claimed he last saw his son. He had no explanation for the discrepancy. Peter Sr. provided authorities with a physical description of Makuakane. He claimed that she was approximately 47 years old in 1997. She was 5'0 to 5'1 with a husky build, salt-and-pepper hair and brown eyes. Peter Sr. said that Makuakane's hair appeared to be naturally curly and was unbrushed, and it was in a ponytail when he last saw her. He claimed that she is of Hawaiian, Japanese and Portuguese descent, with a fair complexion. Peter Sr. claimed that Makuakane normally wore floral-printed shirts and elastic-waisted shorts or pants. He said she was planning to move to a beach community in Florida at the time that he gave her his son.
Peter Sr.'s relatives said that they never heard of Makuakane prior to 1997. Authorities are not certain if she actually exists, as they were unable to locate anyone in A'ala Park who was familiar with her. Makuakane was not registered with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a lauhala weaver. Investigators checked with all the Makuakanes listed in the Hawaiian telephone directories, but no one had heard of her. Peter Jr.'s parents admitted that they did not have any contact information for Makuakane. Investigators said that Peter Jr.'s parents did not appear to be interested in locating him.
Hawaii has a history of unofficial adoptions referred to as "hanai." In the hanai tradition, the biological parents turn over custody of a child to a blood relative. The parents continue to have regular contact and visitations with the child afterwards and remain a central part of their child's life. Many people familiar with the customs of hanai have stated the Kema situation does not classify as such an arrangement, considering that Peter Jr.'s parents apparently never saw their son again.
Jaylin's parents, James and Yolanda Acol, occasionally cared for Peter Jr. since he was an infant; he was first removed from Peter Sr. and Jaylin's home in August 1991 due to multiple leg, hip and rib fractures, some of which were weeks old. His parents claimed the fractures occurred when his two-year-old half-sister jumped on him, but the Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS) found that the injuries were consistent with child abuse. One of the fractures to his leg was a spiral fracture, which can only be caused when the limb is twisted until it breaks. Peter Jr.'s maternal grandparents wanted to retain custody of him, but the courts returned the child to his parents' care in 1995. James and Yolanda last saw him in 1996 and said he had a black eye and his arm appeared to be badly sprained or broken; Peter Jr.'s parents stated that he had sustained the injury when he accidentally fell from a tree.
Psychological evaluations for Jaylin and Peter Sr. have been conducted twice. The evalutions found that Jaylin suffered from depression and a personality disorder with borderline, passive-aggressive and dependent features, Peter Sr. had borderline intellectual functioning and a personality disorder with "alarming" antisocial, narcissistic and paranoid features, and both of them were immature, lacked parenting skills and were at high risk to abuse their children. Peter Sr. and Jaylin were classified as dysfunctional individuals.
In addition to Peter Jr., Jaylin had one son, two daughters and three other children who died in infancy. All of the Kema children were removed from their residence due to allegations of physical and sexual abuse in 1998. Peter Jr.'s younger sister, Devalynn, has been adopted by Jaylin's parents. His older half-siblings, Chauntelle and Allan Acol, live with their father in Washington state. In a 2005 media interview, James and Yolanda stated they had not seen Jaylin in two years and that she had kept numerous secrets from them.
Peter Jr.'s siblings were interviewed by social workers in 1998 and they stated that they had all been abused and Peter Jr. most all. The children stated that was "sick a lot" before his disappearance and and his parents would not let him go to school or play with other children. (He had been enrolled in a preschool for a matter of days but was absent so frequently that he was discharged from enrollment.) Peter Jr. was allegedly beaten frequently and shot with a pellet gun at least once, often handcuffed or tied up with rope, and locked in the trunk of his parents' car and covered with blankets whenever the family went on outings. Devalynn also related incidents in which Peter Jr. was thrown out of a window and put in a trash can, and one of their cousins stated he had seen Peter Jr. being forced to eat dog feces. Chauntelle and Allan told their foster parents that their brother was often made to sleep outside without any covers, and when he slept inside he was usually tied to a bed or made to sleep on the floor in the hallway or bathroom. They stated that he was not fed very often or given adequate medical care and when he did get food, he had to eat it on the floor.
Devalynn was four years old at the time of her brother's disappearance. She gave conflicting accounts as to what she thought had happened to Peter Jr. In an interview with a psychologist, she stated that she had seen her brother dead and their parents had taken his body to Honolulu, and later in the same interview she said she believed he was alive and living in Honolulu. The psychologist noted that confusion about the nature of death is typical in very young children.
In 2005, Allan, who is now an adult, gave an interview with the media and gave his recollections of the time Peter Jr. disappeared. Allan said he and Chauntelle were outside their home when they heard a commotion inside the house. They were afraid to go in and see what was happening. Later that day, Peter Sr. told his stepchildren that Peter Jr. was gone and instructed them that if anyone asked, they were to say that Peter Jr. was living with relatives on Oahu and working in a taro patch. Allan stated that he never saw the child again.
Peter Sr. and Jaylin have never been officially named as suspects in their son's case by law enforcement, but they have refused to cooperate with authorities. There is a history of domestic violence in the couple's relationship and both of them are frequently unemployed. They were together for several years before getting married in 1992. Jaylin and Peter Sr. separated in 2005, after Jaylin alleged that her husband abused her. She has received a restraining order against him which is valid through 2008.
Peter Jr.'s disappearance was not reported until January 1998 when the DHS, having been unable to see the child for several months and having heard complaints from his grandparents who were also unable to see Peter Jr. or talk to him on the phone, suspected that he was being deliberately kept from them and demanded to know his whereabouts. Jaylin claimed he was staying with an aunt and uncle for vacation, but when Peter Sr. was questioned he told the DHS he had given his son to Makuakane. Peter Jr. has not been seen by anyone other than his parents and siblings since the spring of 1997. Jaylin filed a missing persons report for him in 1998, at the request of his social worker. She said she had not known that Peter Sr. had given their son to Makuakane until January 1998, when he told the DHS. In 2001, investigators excavated the backyard of the home the Kemas were living in when Peter Jr. disappeared. They thought they might find his remains, but they found no evidence relating to his case.
A bumper sticker campaign surfaced in Hawaii for Peter's case in 1999, which brought more publicity to his disappearance. Peter Jr. and Makuakane have never been located. Peter Sr. stated at one time that Makuakane would enroll Peter Jr. in a school on the island of Oahu, but school records all over the state have been checked and there is no evidence that the child is enrolled in any public school anywhere in Hawaii.
In 2000, police reclassified Peter Jr.'s case from a missing person to a homicide, but DHS documents indicate that social workers believed he was dead as early as 1998. Authorities stated that there was no evidence that Peter Jr. had even left Hilo before his disappearance. A plane ticket was found for Jaylin, Peter Sr. and an unidentified person to fly from Hilo to Honolulu the summer Peter Jr. disappeared. Curiously, Jaylin claimed only Peter Sr. flew to Honolulu and she herself had not left Hilo in over twenty years.
The DHS has legal custody of Peter Jr. They released his entire DHS casefile to the general public in 2005. Around this time, investigators began a fresh investigation of Peter Jr.'s case and reinterviewed his parents and siblings.
In 2006, Peter Jr.'s case was reclassified from a non-family abduction to an endangered missing child.
Investigating Agency Charley Project
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Hawaii County Police Department