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Police say Waimānalo girl was likely dead weeks before the missing report

honolulu police waimanalo isabella kalua 111021
Jennifer Sinco Kelleher/AP
Honolulu Police Maj. Ben Moszkowicz addresses a news conference in Honolulu on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, where law enforcement officers said they arrested the adopted parents of Isabella "Ariel" Kalua, shown on the screen to the left. The parents, Lehua and Isaac "Sonny" Kalua have been charged with second-degree murder in the girl's death. Police say the girl was killed a month before they reported her missing Sept. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)

A 6-year-old Waimānalo girl was killed a month before her adoptive parents reported her missing, Honolulu police said Wednesday as they announced the arrests of the parents on suspicion of second-degree murder.

Isaac and Lehua Kalua reported Isabella "Ariel" Kalua missing on the morning of Sept. 13, telling police they last saw her when they put her to bed the night before in their Waimānalo home.

But police now believe the Kaluas were lying, but won't say how they know the girl is dead. Police said they believe she was killed by her adoptive parents in August 2021.

Honolulu Police Maj. Ben Moszkowicz said at a news conference that the girl’s remains have not been located.

Lehua Kalua, 43, was arrested at the couple's Waimānalo home Wednesday, while Isaac Kalua, 52, was arrested at the Pearl Harbor shipyard where he works, police said.

They were being held without bail on suspicion of second-degree murder. An attorney who has acted as their spokesperson didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment on their arrests.

The Kaluas adopted the girl in January. She was born Ariel Sellers and the Kaluas legally changed her name, Moszkowicz said.

“Unfortunately, what began as a search for a missing girl turned into a murder investigation focused on the Kaluas,” Honolulu interim police chief Rade Vanic said.

“We believe that the evidence leads to the Kaluas and no one else,” Vanic said.

The cause of death is still under investigation, police said.

Police asked anyone who interacted with Isabella Kalua or her sisters in the months leading up to her disappearance to contact authorities.

A reward that has grown to at least $11,000 is still being offered because the arrests of Kaluas didn't come from any tips, Moszkowicz said.

The Kaluas were initially cooperative with police — until they weren't, said homicide Lt. Deena Thoemmes.

“They did open their home initially to us, provided us statements. But then as the weeks passed, there was no call back to us,” Thoemmes said.

A state Department of Education spokesperson said previously the girl attended kindergarten at Waimanalo Elementary last school year via distance learning. In June, the adoptive parents filed paperwork to withdraw her to home-school her, said Nanea Kalani, a spokesperson for the department.

The girl's 7th birthday was last weekend.

Volunteers from across the island, along with city, state, federal and military agencies, have been searching for the girl since her reported disappearance.

Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at (808) 955-8300 or send anonymous web tips here.

Updated: November 10, 2021 at 3:57 PM HST
Added comments and information from the Honolulu Police Department press confrence.
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