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Police release details on the disappearance of Isabella Kalua following the arrest of her adoptive parents


by: Chelsee Yee, Max Rodriguez, Jenn Boneza

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) arrested the adoptive parents of Isabella Kalua in connection with her disappearance. It has been nearly two months since Isabella — also known as Ariel Sellers — has been missing. It is a case that drew national attention and encouraged the community to rally together to find Isabella, who was then six years old.

HPD and FBI were seen early Wednesday morning at their home on Puha Street in Waimanalo where they arrested Isabella’s adoptive mom, 43-year-old Lehua Kalua, on suspicion of second-degree murder. Her adoptive dad, 52-year-old Isaac Kalua, was arrested at Building 167 at Pearl Harbor, also on suspicion of second-degree murder. They are being held without bail.

A witness at the scene on Puha Street said law enforcement came down hard and were dressed in full riot gear as the Kalua’s house was searched by police and their dogs. Federal agents collected beds, stuffed boxes and a vacuum cleaner as evidence.

“I saw the flashbang and then I saw them disappear to the side, and then they came out; so I saw them come out. Obviously went in with shields — the police shields — but I didn’t see anyone else come out of the house,” the witness explained and added that she heard police tell someone to get out of the car — this was when Lehua Kalua was arrested.

During a news conference on Wednesday, police said they believe Isabella was murdered some time in August, a month before her adoptive parents reported her missing. Her remains have not been recovered, but police believe her adoptive parents are responsible. At this point, there are no other suspects.

Honolulu Police Maj Ben Moszkowicz said, “Based on the investigation conducted by the homicide detail, we believe that Ariel was murdered sometime in the middle of August 2021 by her adopted parents Lehua and Isaac Kalua.”

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.”

Kaeo added that she is angry and disappointed to think the Kalua’s could have killed Isabella.

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 the 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.

“I feel like I was slapped in my face with a fake apology for not knowing what place or what it was a fake remorse,” Kaeo stated. “Those girls were failed by Lehua and Sonny. They didn’t give them unconditional love. I hurt for my nieces, I hurt for the unknown.”

The six-year-old’s biological family said they want closure.

“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,” said Kaeo.

Moszkowicz said developments connected to evidence in the case led police to begin investigating the case as a criminal investigation. HPD did not go into details about what the evidence shows, but this allowed officers to get a search warrant request granted by a judge.

Honolulu Police Criminal Investigation Division Lt. Deena Thoemmes said, “We had a missing person which was not a criminal case at the time, so we had to build a probable cause to get to that criminal case, in order for us to do that, to get a search warrant for the premises or any other search warrant.”

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 members have said there are still more questions than answers related to her case. The Kalua family has not participated in past search parties, claiming they have received death threats and are fully cooperating with authorities. Isabella’s biological family also questioned why the Kaluas filed paperwork in June to withdraw her from distance learning to be home-schooled.

Isabella Kalua, 6, was reported missing on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (Courtesy: Honolulu CrimeStoppers)

Attorney William Harrison, a friend of the Kalua family, said they wanted to set the record straight. Click here to read their explanation.

A family member told KHON2 that Isabella and her three siblings were recently adopted by the family and that Child Protective Services took the siblings from the home as the search for Isabella continues.

In late October, CrimeStoppers and HPD announced that someone donated an additional $10,000 reward for information leading to the person responsible for Isabella’s disappearance or for information leading to her recovery. Police are looking for people who interacted with Isabella and her sisters between 2019 and September 2021.

2021 Nov 10