Taking the case to its next stage, a Hawaii grand jury indicted the couple accused of murdering their missing 6-year-old adopted daughter. Lehua Kalua, 43, and Isaac “Sonny” K. Kalua III, 52, face a slew of charges for the allegedly vile way they treated young Isabella “Ariel” Kalua.
According to prosecutors, Lehua Kalua faces one count of murder in the second degree, one count of hindering prosecution in the first degree, two counts of abuse of family or household members, two counts of persistent nonsupport, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor in the second degree. Isaac Kalua faces one count of murder in the second degree, one count of hindering prosecution in the first degree, two counts of persistent nonsupport, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor in the second degree.
Normally, Hawaii only punishes murder in the second degree up to life with the possibility of parole, but if convicted, however, the Kaluas face life without parole because Isabella Kalua was under age 9, prosecutors said.
“The allegations in this case are heinous beyond description,” Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said in a statement dated Wednesday. “And we will hold Lehua and Isaac Kalua accountable for their alleged crimes against this defenseless child. This case has touched every person in our community and many across the country and we will do everything in our power to bring Ariel’s alleged killers to justice. I thank the Honolulu Police Department and the FBI for their extraordinary efforts to investigate this matter and chase down every lead.”
Authorities have alleged that Lehua and Isaac Kalua murdered Isabella in August 2021. The couple reported the little girl missing on Sept. 13. They allegedly claimed to have seen her the night before when they put her to bed, and they suggested she might have walked off in the middle of the night.
“Initially they were [cooperative],” Lt. Deena Thoemmes said at a press conference regarding the elder Kaluas. “They did open their homes initially to us, provided us statements, but then as the weeks passed, there was no callback to us.”
The couple’s original story was a lie, investigators have since alleged. Citing Isabella Kalua’s 12-year-old sister, they said the couple forced Isabella into a dog cage, with duct tape on her mouth.
“[The sister] stated that the secret was that [Isabella] was in the bathroom in a dog cage, duct tape on her mouth and nose, and she didn’t wake up,” the affidavit stated. “[The sister] further stated that she, the two smaller children, Isaac and Lehua were sleeping when they got up at 3:32 a.m. Lehua and [The sister] went to check on [Isabella] in the bathroom and [Isabella] ‘didn’t wake up.’ [The sister] then was told to go back to sleep and Isaac and Lehua stayed up.”
In this version of events, Lehua Kalua tried to wake up Isabella by putting her in a cold bathtub, but she woke up the husband when those efforts failed. The sister was allegedly forced to move the body to her bedroom. Isaac Kalua faked getting COVID-19 so he could call out of work for approximately two weeks and move Isabella’s body, investigators believe.
According to police, the older sister said the couple purchased the dog cage to lock up Isabella at night because she snuck around for food. Allegedly, the child had been hungry because Lehua Kalua would not feed her. Lehua often put duct tape on Isabella, the elder sister said, according to cops. Husband Isaac allegedly knew about this well.
Authorities have yet to find Isabella.
Read some of the case file below.
Marisa Sarnoff and Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
[Images via Honolulu Police Department]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]