A 6-year-old Hawaii 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 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 Waimanalo home on the eastern end of Oahu.
But police now believe the Kaluas were lying but won’t say how they know the girl is dead. Honolulu Police Maj. Ben Moszkowicz said at a news conference that girl’s remains have not been located.
Lehua Kalua was arrested at the couple’s home Wednesday, while Isaac Kalua 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 the girl 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.
CBS affiliate KGMB-TV reports that on Wednesday, members of the girl’s biological family gathered outside the Waimanalo home in the wake of the raid. They told the station the arrests are the “beginning of the end” and hoped they would soon get some information about what actually happened to Isabella.
“Very emotional. It’s the beginning, it’s the start for us. It’s hard,” said biological aunt Lana Idao.