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Adoptive parents indicted for the murder of 6-year-old Isabella Kalua

honolulu prosecutor steve alm isabella kalua 111721
Zoe Dym
Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Honolulu prosecutor Steve Alm speaks at a press conference about the adoptive parents of 6-year-old Isabella Kalua on Nov. 17, 2021.

HONOLULU — A grand jury on Wednesday indicted a Waimānalo couple for the murder of their 6-year-old adopted daughter they reported missing.

The body of Isabella Kalua, known by some by her birth name of Ariel, has not been found.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm announced that Isaac and Lehua Kalua are charged with second-degree murder, hindering prosecution and other charges.

Police believe Isabella was killed about a month before the Kaluas reported her missing.

According to court documents, the girl's older biological sister, also adopted by the Kaluas, told a detective she saw Isabella in a dog cage, with duct tape on her nose and mouth and not breathing.

The Kaluas were being held without bail. A public defender entered not guilty pleas on their behalf in court last week. They are now being represented by court-appointed attorneys.

Isaac Kalua's attorney, Donovan Odo, and Lehua Kalua's attorney, Jason Say, declined to comment.

“This is a heinous crime," Alm said. "They need to be held accountable for it.”

The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison with the possibility for parole. But because Isabella was younger than 8, Alm said he will seek an enhanced sentence of life without parole if the Kaluas are convicted.

Police declined to discuss efforts to find Isabella's body. Alm said it's possible to prosecute the Kaluas even if a body isn't recovered.

lehua kalua isaac kalua isabella HPD
Honolulu Police Department via The Associated Press
These undated photos provided by the Honolulu Police Department show Lehua Kalua (L) and Isaac Kalua (R).

“It’s not the most common situation, but it certainly is possible,” he said.

Lehua Kalua is also charged with abuse of a family member, Alm said. According to court documents, the Kaluas also adopted another of Isabella’s siblings and were foster parents to another sibling.

“The abuse involved more than one child,” Alm said.

Lehua Kalua's murder charge involves allegedly inflicting the damage that led to Isabella's death, Alm said, and not taking reasonable steps to seek medical help for her.

Isaac Kalua is charged with what's referred to as murder by omission, by not helping Isabella, Alm said.

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