The older sister of Isabella Kalua told a detective that she saw the 6-year-old girl in a dog cage in the bathroom about two months ago with “duct tape on her nose and mouth,” and she was not breathing, according to a criminal complaint filed today against Isabella’s adoptive parents.
The complaint said Isabella’s sister told the Honolulu police detective during an interview on Nov. 5 that their adoptive mother, Lehua Kalua, asked her to keep the secret of what happened to Isabella.
Lehua Kalua, 43, and her husband, Isaac K. Kalua III, 52, made their initial appearances before Family Court Judge Linda Martell at Honolulu District Court via video conference from the courthouse cellblock this morning.
Both are charged with second-degree murder and are being held without bail.
Deputy public defender Justin Tanaka represented the couple at their initial appearances today. Their preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 26.
According to the complaint, the sister told the detective that she was awakened by their parents during the early-morning hours one day and saw Isabella with duct tape on her nose and mouth, and not breathing, the complaint said.
Lehua Kalua then allegedly took Isabella out of the cage and filled a bathtub with water. She placed her in it in an attempt to wake her up but she didn’t, the complaint said.
The sister then had to help carry Isabella to their bedroom, she told police. She said she knew Isabella was dead.
The complaint did not disclose the sister’s age but indicated she was born in 2009. Isabella’s 7th birthday was Nov. 6.
Isabella’s sister recalled a few days later that Isaac Kalua III took time off of work to “help mom.” When police asked why he would need to help her mom, the sister responded, “to get rid of stuff … evidence,” according to the complaint.
The sister also told the detective that Lehua Kalua did not feed Isabella and often put duct tape on her and placed her in a dog cage because she would sneak around and eat at night. The sister would try to sneak food to Isabella “but Lehua would catch them and become upset,” the complaint said.
The adoptive parents called 911 on the morning of Sept. 13 to report Isabella Kalua, also known by her birth name of Ariel Sellers, as missing. They told police they last saw her in her bedroom at about 9 p.m. the previous night.
Lehua Kalua told police that she woke up the next morning between 5 and 6 a.m. and discovered the side door of the was closed but unlocked. When she went to Isabella’s room, she said, she noticed that she was not there, according to police.
Isaac Kalua III, also known as Sonny, told police he last saw Isabella in the kitchen at about 7 p.m. after they had dinner on Sept. 12 and that he went to sleep at about 8 to 8:30 p.m., the criminal complaint said. He said he woke up at about 6:30 a.m when he heard his wife screaming that Isabella was missing.
Those statements were proven false based on video surveillance that police recovered from the area, said Lt. Deena Thoemmes at a Wednesday news conference. The complaint revealed Isabella was last seen on surveillance footage on Aug. 18.
During the news conference, police said they determined she likely died in mid-August, based on the police department’s analysis with the assistance of the FBI.
The case was initially classified as a missing persons case. Last week, police reclassified the case to murder.
Police and the FBI have been scouring Kalua’s property in Waimanalo and surrounding areas in search of Isabella’s body.
At about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Lehua Kalua was arrested at their Waimanalo home following a raid by police and the FBI. Within the same hour, law enforcement also arrested Isaac Kalua III at his workplace at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.