HONOLULU (KHON2) — Isaac and Lehua Kalua made their initial appearance in court, via video conferencing, Friday, Nov. 12. The judge denied the request for bail and for the release of the Kaluas who are charged with the murder of their 6-year-old adopted daughter Isabella Kalua, also known as Ariel Sellers.
If found guilty, they face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Court documents outlined the shocking details of Ariel’s death as witnessed by a sibling.
Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You
Court documents released on Friday revealed that on Sept. 13, video surveillance was recovered from the Kalua residence. Isabella was last seen on surveillance cameras on Aug. 18. During an interview with a detective, Isabella’s older sister revealed disturbing details about what she witnessed.
According to Isabella’s sister, the Kaluas asked her to keep it a secret about what happened to Isabella, including that she was in the bathroom in a dog cage, with duct tape on her mouth and nose, and did not wake up. The sister said the incident happened two months ago.
She said she knows what happened because her parents woke her up around 3:30 a.m and that they took Isabella out of the dog cage and put her in the bathtub.
Lehua then filled the bathtub with water and put Isabella in it to see if she would wake up, but it did not work.
Her sister said she helped carry Ariel to her bedroom, but she does not know what her parents did with her after that.
The court documents also stated that Isaac Kalua went to the doctor — according to the sister — to pretend that he had COVID and took time off work to stay home to “help mom” and “to get rid of stuff…evidence.”
The sister said Lehua bought the dog cage because Isabella would sneak around at night and want to eat because she was hungry because Lehua would not feed her.
Lehua is accused of putting duct tape on Isabella “plenty of times” because of the sneaking around. The sister said she was also duct taped on other occasions and that their adoptive father saw but did nothing.
Isabella’s biological family is horrified.
“No child deserves to be treated like an animal. No animal deserves to be treated horrifically like that by monsters,” said Alena Kaeo, Isabella’s biological aunt. “I’ve kind of run out of all emotions as far as crying. Now I’m just hurt and I’m angry. And I just want to fight the battle of just getting these girls into a safer environment.”
She said she is worried about her neice, who saw what happened.
“There’s no words to express the agony that she had to endure, all of that and still have to try to live her own life. It’s just crazy,” Kaeo added.
Robbie Akana, a close friend of Isabella’s biological family who has helped search for her since she was reported missing, said they want justice and closure.
“What needs to happen now is we need to find Ariel’s remains,” Akana explained. “We need to find her to bring her home to give her a proper goodbye. The family never got to say goodbye.”
Read the court documents below:
It has been exactly two months since Isabella’s adoptive parents said she was last seen sleeping in her room on Sept. 12 wearing a black hoodie and leggings, colorful socks and pink-soled Nike slides. They initially reported to police that she left their Waimanalo home in the middle of the night and found her missing the next morning. Police said that statement was false, and they believe foul play was involved.
On Wednesday, Nov. 10, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) released details about the investigation during a news conference following the arrest of 43-year-old Lehua Kalua and 52-year-old Isaac “Sonny” Kalua earlier that morning. They believe that Isabella was murdered in mid-August, a month before her adoptive parents reported her missing. Although her remains have not been recovered, police believe the Kaluas are responsible. They are the only suspects at this time.
State of Hawaii Child Welfare Services (CWS) records indicate that Isabella and her older sister began residing with Lehua and Isaac in February 2019. Records also show that the Kaluas adopted Isabella and her two biological siblings early this year; they are also the foster parents to another biological sibling who was born in 2020. Police confirmed that Isabella’s siblings remain in CWS custody as the investigation continues.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
June 2021: Isabella’s adoptive parents file paperwork to withdraw her from distance learning at Waimānalo Elementary and Intermediate School to home-school.
Aug. 18: Isabella is last seen on surveillance video at their home.
Aug. 21 – Sept. 7: Isaac Kalua takes vacation after visiting the doctor.
Sept. 13: Police meet with the Kaluas for a missing person case.
Nov. 10: Isaac and Lehua Kalua are arrested and charged with murder.
Watch Lehua and Kalua make their first court appearance below:
Investigators continue to search for evidence to help them find her body. HPD Maj. Ben Moszkowicz said developments connected to evidence in the case allowed police to begin investigating the case as a criminal investigation. HPD did not go into detail about what the evidence shows, but this allowed officers to get a search warrant request granted by a judge.
Watch the full news conference below:
Isabella’s case has drawn national attention and encouraged the community to rally together to find her. The first week of her disappearance drew in hundreds of people to Waimanalo where they supported several law enforcement agencies with the search. Weeks later, family members and smaller groups of neighbors continued their search, but their hope has turned more into a need for closure.
Isabella’s biological family has fought for answers since the beginning and her biological aunt, Alena Kaeo, said she was dropping her kids off at school when she heard about the raid.
“It’s been a very emotional, overwhelming morning,” Kaeo said. “This is like a bomb in our head and our faces. We didn’t have answers and then, boom, all of a sudden they’re arrested and they have the house being raided… We just want to put our baby girl to rest if that’s what it is. We want justice for her and her sisters. We just want the girls to come home to family.”
The fence line fronting the home has turned into a makeshift memorial for Isabella as people who knew her and strangers continuously stop by with flowers and stuffed animals, paying their respects.
Stolen jewels, boa constrictors killing owners, check out Weird News here
Police are looking for anyone who may have seen Lehua or Isaac Kalua during August or September of this year. Witnesses are encouraged to contact CrimeStoppers at (808)-955-8300. The public may also send anonymous web tips here or via the P3 Tips app.