A Waimanalo couple indicted in the death of their 6-year-old adopted daughter, Isabella “Ariel” Kalua, pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges at Circuit Court today.
Lehua Kalua and Isaac “Sonny” Kalua III appeared together at their arraignment in prison uniforms before Judge Christine Kuriyama via videoconference from the Oahu Community Correctional Center.
An Oahu grand jury had returned an indictment against the pair on Nov. 17, charging them with second-degree murder, abuse of a family or household member, persistent nonsupport, endangering the welfare of a minor and hindering prosecution.
Lehua Kalua’s court-appointed attorney, Jason Burks, and Isaac Kalua’s court-appointed attorney, Donovan Odo, entered not guilty pleas to the charges on their behalf.
Kuriyama scheduled their trial for January.
Meanwhile, the Kaluas are being held without bail at the correctional facility.
Lehua Kalua, 44, was charged with murder by “inflicting the damage that lead to the death of their adopted daughter,” said Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm at a recent news conference to discuss the indictment. Isaac Kalua, 52, was charged with murder by omission for failing to call law enforcement or seek medical care for her.
In complaints filed at Honolulu District Court against the couple, Isabella Kalua’s 12-year-old biological sister revealed she saw Isabella inside a dog cage with duct tape on her nose and mouth and not breathing.
The girl was last seen alive on video footage from a surveillance camera at the Kalua residence at 41-610 Puha St. on Aug. 18.
The sister also said Isabella, whose birth name is Ariel Sellers, was denied food and kept in a dog cage. When the sister would try to bring her food, Lehua Kalua “would catch them and become upset,” the complaints said.
The Kaluas are also charged with abusing the sister who they also adopted.
Police said that Isabella likely died in mid-August, approximately a month before the Kaluas called police to report her missing.
Family Prosecution Division Chief Tiffany Kaeo has said the couple “took multiple steps to destroy evidence” that include using cleaning agents to thoroughly clean the house and discarding items at locations around the island.
The child’s remains have not been found.
If convicted, the Kaluas face an extended imprisonment term of life without the possibility of parole because the victim was under the age of 9.