State continues fighting lawsuit over 1997 death of ‘Peter Boy’

  • Peter Kema Jr., also known as “Peter Boy.” Courtesy photo

HONOLULU — The state is appealing a recent ruling that allowed a lawsuit to proceed by siblings who say the death of their brother, “Peter Boy” Kema, could have been prevented.

The lawsuit on behalf of the Big Island boy’s estate and siblings was filed after a court-appointed special master found in 2017 that Peter Kema, known as Peter Boy, and his siblings were returned to their parents’ home despite multiple removals for possible child abuse.

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The state tried to have the case thrown out, saying the family filed the lawsuit too late and that the statute of limitations ran out because the 6-year-old boy died in 1997.

A judge ruled that the clock didn’t start until after they knew the child was dead, which is when their mother confessed in court in 2016. Her husband later admitted he killed the boy and dumped his remains in the ocean.

Until then, the boy was still considered missing, said the siblings’ attorney, Randall Rosenberg.

“We explained that it wasn’t our clients’ fault, that the information which would have allowed them to file a complaint did not exist until the confession of the parents as to what happened to Peter Boy,” Rosenberg said.

The state’s appeal could add another two years to the case’s legal process, Hawaii News Now reported Monday.

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The state Attorney General’s office, which is fighting the lawsuit, said it could not comment on pending litigation.

“The main claim against the state is that they had two chances to save Peter Boy and they completely blew it and they know that they did,” Rosenberg said.

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