HONOLULU — The father of a 6-year-old Hawaii boy who disappeared two decades ago was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison for manslaughter, fulfilling a deal with prosecutors that required him to reveal the location of his son’s body.

Peter Kema Sr. must serve a minimum of six years and eight months. Though Kema led police and prosecutors to a remote coastal area of the Big Island in April, water and time prevented authorities from finding any remains, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Damerville said.

Kema later passed a polygraph test, which said he was telling the truth about where he disposed of the remains and allowed his sentencing to move forward.

Prosecutors believe the child, known as “Peter Boy,” was abused and died from septic shock after a festering arm sore went untreated.

Kema declined to speak at his sentencing.

“He didn’t apologize or acknowledge his family,” Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth said.

The boy’s mother, Jaylin Kema, was released from jail in April after serving a year for manslaughter. At a hearing last year, she agreed to facts that prosecutors laid out in court about abuse the boy suffered, her failure to get him medical treatment and his eventual death. That was the first official confirmation the child was dead.

The Kemas had long been suspects in their son’s disappearance, but prosecutors said they didn’t have enough evidence to charge them until last year, when a grand jury indicted the couple on murder counts.

After Peter 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?”

Peter Kema 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.

Sometime between May and June 1997, the couple’s then-4-year-old daughter heard Jaylin Kema calling out for her husband and saw her trying to resuscitate the boy, prosecutors said. The girl later saw her brother in a box, prosecutors said.

In 2005, then-state Human Services Director Lillian Koller released more than 2,000 pages of heavily redacted documents, detailing allegations of abuse suffered by Peter and his siblings at the hands of their father.

The case shows that more needs to be done to protect abused children, Roth said. The prosecutor said he plans to push for legislation that would require a judge to weigh in when parents with a history of abuse want to pull a child out of school. Peter had been taken out of school.

“This is not the final chapter,” Roth said. “This is a time that we should be looking at what kind of changes we can make to the system.”


This story has been corrected to show that Jaylin Kema’s name was misspelled Jayline.