Crime Statistics

Adoptive Parents Arrested for Murder in Disappearance of Isabella “Ariel” Kalua

By Wendy Osher
November 10, 2021, 6:11 PM HST
* Updated November 12, 6:34 AM
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Lehua Kalua (left); and Isaac “Sonny” Kalua (right). PC: Honolulu Police Department / screen grab

Isabella “Ariel” Kalua’s adoptive parents, Isaac and Lehua Kalua, were placed under arrest today for second-degree murder amid a two month investigation into the six-year-old girl’s disappearance.

“Unfortunately, what began as a search for a missing girl, turned into a murder investigation focused on the Kalua’s,” said Interim Honolulu Police Chief Rade Vanic during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “While we are unable to discuss the details at this time, we believe that the evidence leads to the Kalua’s and no one else.”

Major Ben Moszkowicz with the HPD Criminal Investigation Division recounted the events that led up to today’s arrests saying, “On Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, at around 6:25 a.m., HPD call takers received a 911 call from the parents at 41-610 Puha Street, notifying police that their six-year-old adopted daughter, Isabella [Ariel] Kalua was missing. According to initial reports, Ariel was last seen the previous evening, Sunday, Sept. 12, at around 9 o’clock p.m., when her parents put her to bed.”

Homicide investigators say, “What was initially reported was that she had left her home in the middle of the night, and when they [her adoptive parents] woke up they didn’t see her.” Police say the Kalua’s reported that their initial thought was that their daughter may have walked away.

Lieutenant Deena Thoemmes, with the HPD CID, in charge of Homicide Detail, said, “As our investigation continued, it was determined that foul play was involved. The initial information reported by Isaac and Lehua on Sept. 13 was false… Multiple items of evidence were recovered and tested; multiple people were interviewed, and those interviews were recorded and reviewed; and hours of surveillance was also recovered and reviewed.”

Isabella “Ariel Sellers” Kalua. PC: Honolulu Police Department / image grab
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“In response to the call, HPD classified the case as a missing person and immediately mobilized a search of the area. For the next eight days, an intensive search involving over 200 HPD personnel and between 300-500 community volunteers scoured the Waimanalo area each day looking for Ariel,” said Maj. Moszkowicz.

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“And even after an initial search of the area was complete, for the last 58 days since this was reported, dedicated community members have continued the search for Ariel,” said Maj. Moszkowicz, noting that the investigation is still active and “far from over.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, shortly after 6 a.m., members of the HPD’s Specialized Services Division, simultaneously served search warrants at Ariel’s home, as well as the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, where Isaac, her father works, to search the home and vehicles of Lehua and Isaac Kalua. Both were arrested at around 7:10 a.m.

“Specifically, investigators and crime scene technicians are on scene still, and will probably be there through tomorrow, searching for evidence related to Ariel’s murder,” said Maj. Moszkowicz. “Based on the investigation conducted by the Homicide Detail, we believe that Ariel was murdered sometime in the middle of August 2021 by her adoptive parents Lehua and Isaac Kalua. It’s worth noting this time element is a full month before Ariel was reported to police as a missing person. The cause of Ariel’s death is still under investigation and will not be discussed today.”

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Ariel’s remains have not yet been recovered, according to police who spoke at today’s press briefing. “We know that there are members of the community who have cared for and who continue to care for the wellbeing of Ariel and her sisters. And we’re looking for witnesses who know or may have interacted with Ariel and her sisters between 2019 and August of 2021, to come forward,” said Maj. Moszkowicz.

Also, anyone who may have seen Lehua or Isaac Kalua during August or September of this year, is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at 808-955-8300. Individuals with information may also dial *CRIME on their mobile device, visit www.honolulucrimestoppers.org, or download the P3 Tips App to their mobile device in order to submit information anonymously.

“You may have important information that could help us to locate Ariel,” said Maj. Moszkowicz. “It’s important to remember that no detail at this point, is too small.”

Police say support from the city deputy prosecuting attorneys and individuals from the domestic violence division was critical getting police where they are today in their now eight-week investigation. Maj. Moszkowicz gave special thanks to the support provided by the FBI.

“In just the past few weeks, the FBI has been able to offer the Homicide Detail technical expertise and evidentiary analysis that was extremely valuable and far exceeded our own department capabilities. In particular, the insight provided by FBI’s behavioral analysis unit into the mindset of the suspects in this case was instrumental in helping us to advance the investigation to where it is today,” he said.

“In the last week to 10 days, some evidence has come to light–again with the significant help of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit… They gave us insight into this case that I don’t think we would have probable been able to come up with on our own because of all the resources… We gave them a bunch of evidence, and they turned it around and gave us the same evidence back, but told us, maybe look at it from this angle. Or maybe, when you talk to this person, talk about this. But those kinds of very slight changes to the tact that the homicide team was taking, was able to create this development,” said Maj. Moszkowicz.

Police were asked about evidence recovered during the investigation including a photo album. “The photo album that was found was determined to belong to the Kalua family, and there was nothing of evidentiary value of that, other than it did belong to them,” said Lt. Thoemmes.

“At some point in the initial investigation, the Kalua’s were both pretty cooperative; and then, eventually they weren’t. So to give us permission to go on their property and start searching–that wasn’t going to happen,” said Lt. Thoemmes. “We couldn’t get in touch with them, they didn’t call us back, or whatever it may be. We need to get a search warrant to be able to do what we needed to do–go to the house, like we did this morning, and that needed to be approved by the prosecutor’s office as well as the judge. But again, we had a missing person, which was not a criminal case at that time, so we had to build our probable cause to get to that criminal case in order for us to do that–to get a search warrant for the premises.”

“We are conducting a search of the home today, and probably into tomorrow. If we are unable to locate remains there, then a big part of what we’re asking for is for people who have seen the Kalua’s between August and September–and I know that’s a brand new time frame for people to even consider… The daughter was dead from the middle of August to September. So if you saw them in that time frame, we really are very interested in talking to you and hearing what you have to say that could lead us to that type of discovery,” said Maj. Moszkowicz.

Because a warrant for arrest was executed and the judicial process has begun, there is significant intervention by the police department and prosecutor’s office. “At this point, case law prevents us from trying to interview the suspects without an attorney being present. So procedurally, they’ve been taken to the station. They’re going to remain there until their first appearance,” which Maj. Moszkowicz said would presumably be on Friday. “Until they are appointed counsel, case law says we cannot talk to them.”

Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Honolulu Field Office, Steven Merrill said, “The FBI remains steadfast in our effort to work with law enforcement agencies across this area to make sure that justice is done.

Video: Honolulu Police Department
Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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