HONOLULU (KHON2) –The Hawaii Police Department is investigating what they call a suspicious death of a 5-month-old. Police said they’re piecing together information from multiple investigations.
According to Big Island police, on Dec. 31, Puna officers responded to a report of an unresponsive 5-month-old baby. Authorities met the parents along Highway 30, while on their way to the Pahoa Fire Station for help. Big Island police add the autopsy conducted on Monday showed the baby had evidence of life-threatening injuries. Police are still waiting for the cause of death.
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“We’ve been in contact with the forensic pathologist who did the autopsy, so we’re still working with him on that and he’s still actually doing some testing to be able to come to a final conclusion on the cause and manner of death,” said Capt. Rio Amon-Wilkins, Hawaii Police Department Criminal Investigation Division Area I.
Police are asking anyone with information on this case to come forward.
Meanwhile, these types of investigations sometimes end up pointing to child abuse. KHON2 dug deeper into how common child abuse is in Hawaii and what’s being done about it.
According to the Department of Human Services’ annual child abuse and neglect report, in 2021, 75 children needed treatment, 47 had serious injuries and two were fatal.
“We see the pictures and we read the reports as to what happened and it’s tough to read those things and to understand that this kind of stuff is happening,” said Julio Herrera, of the Department of Attorney General Family Law Division.
The report added, children under 5 had the most child abuse and neglect cases at 46 percent. Over the years, the stats said infants under one continue to be the age range with the most abuse cases confirmed.
“At that age, they’re completely defenseless, there isn’t any language so they can’t ask or cry out for help. Members of the public may not see this baby, so they won’t really know what may be occurring behind closed doors,” said Capt. Amon-Wilkins.
In 2021, there were over 1,300 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect with the majority of the cases on Oahu. The report adds, that the leading factors include drug use, family violence and inability to cope with parenting responsibility. While there are options for families like the Child Welfare Services prevention and diversion efforts, the state is looking at more ways to help child victims.
The Legislature has taken steps to create safe spaces for youth who are trying to get away from abusive households. Lawmakers said, it’s just the start and more work needs to be done this upcoming session.
“We need to definitely continue to fund that effort and to expand it across the state,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, member of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. “They don’t feel safe at home and the sad thing is there’s just no places to send them. There’s detention homes, but that’s for the ones who have already committed a crime.”
The reports said, medical personnel and police are often the first to report child abuse, but the public can help protect keiki by spotting red flags. Police said those include looking for physical signs of abuse like bruises, frequent absence from school and behavior changes.
For information on how to report child abuse and neglect, view below.
To report suspected Child Abuse and or Neglect: 1-888-380-3088. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
To report suspected Human Trafficking of Children: 1-888-398-1188. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.