The mother of missing “Peter Boy” Kema pleaded guilty to manslaughter this morning in one of the islands’ most notorious unsolved cases and has agreed to testify against her husband, who faces a murder trial in April in their son’s death.
“Four years ago we decided we would look at these cases with a fresh set of eyes,” Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today. “We haven’t forgotten about these cases. The family doesn’t forget. The community shouldn’t forget either. We want to make sure that justice prevails.”
Jaylin Kema’s Hilo defense attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kema and her husband, Peter Kema Sr., were charged with second-degree murder after they were indicted by a Hilo grand jury in April, about 19 years after Peter Boy’s disappearance in 1997.
Peter Kema Sr. told authorities in August 1997 that he left Peter Boy with a longtime family friend, “Aunty Rose Makuakane,” at Aala Park in downtown Honolulu. Her existence could not be verified.
The 1997 disappearance of “Peter Boy” Kema, then 6, was initially a missing-person case, but in 2000 police reclassified it to a homicide.
Jaylin was originally charged with murder in the second degree “based on an omission,” Roth said. “As a mother of a child, you have a duty to act when your child needs medical care and she failed to act.”
In an agreement with the prosecutor’s office, Jaylin pleaded guilty to manslaughter and to a charge of second-degree theft in connection with a welfare fraud case.
Prosecutors previously said Jaylin collected more than $17,000 in public assistance benefits she wasn’t entitled to between May 2010 and July 2015. The theft was uncovered because of the murder investigation, prosecutors had said.
As part of Jaylin’s plea agreement, Roth said, “she’s agreeing to testify against her husband” in his April murder trial over Peter Boy’s death.
She likely will not be sentenced until May, Roth said, and faces a year in jail and 10 years’ probation.
Peter Kema, Sr. faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.
During his 2012 campaign for Hawaii County Prosecutor, Roth pledged to review the island’s unsolved cases, including Peter Boy’s.
Roth said today that indictments in other unsolved murder cases could be forthcoming in the next few months.