by Andrew Walden
Breaking its own rules once again, Hawaii Child Welfare Services (CWS), beginning in 2009, placed the four children of homeless methamphetamine addicts Adam Sellers and Melanie Joseph in the home of four-time convicted felon Isaac Kalua III and his wife, Drug Court graduate, Lehua (Kanahele) Kalua.*
We all know the result.
The Kaluas are now charged with killing one of the four, Isabella Kalua, by placing her in a dog cage with duct tape on her mouth and nose. The criminal complaint also alleges that at least one other foster child was repeatedly duct-taped by Lehua Kalua.
According to the criminal complaint, “Lehua (Kalua) bought the dog cage because (Isabella) would sneak around at night and want to eat because she was hungry…. (Isabella) would be hungry because Lehua would not feed her.”
This has been widely reported.
What has not been examined in the press is the Kaluas’ ongoing bankruptcy case -- and Isaac Kalua’s appeal against the victim restitution award stemming from his felony convictions.
Convicted of felony terroristic threatening, assault and attempted assault in 2001, Isaac Kalua then proceeded to argue for three years over the $50 per month, $4,000 total, court-ordered damages he owed the victims for destroying their truck while assaulting them. Finally, on July 20, 2004, the State Supreme Court ‘summarily disposed’ of Kalua’s appeal and upheld the restitution order.
Flash forward 16 years.
According to the National Institute of Justice, financial distress is a leading cause of domestic violence.
On July 17, 2020, Isaac Kalua III filed for federal bankruptcy protection (Case 1:2020bk00846).
As the bankruptcy case worked its way through federal court, the Lehuas were hit with three collection actions in state court:
1DRC-21-0001424 - DISCOVER BANK VS LEHUA KALUA--10-FEB-2021
1DRC-21-0003151 - Midland Credit Management, Inc vs Lehua Kalua--05-APR-2021
1DRC-21-0007284 - BANK OF AMERICA, N.A. vs. LEHUA R KALUA--11-AUG-2021
The third of these was filed just seven days before August 18, 2021--the last date Isabella Kalua was seen alive on the Kaluas’ surveillance cameras. The Kaluas reported Isabella ‘missing’ the morning of September 13, 2021. They were arrested November 11, 2021.
Court records show:
Lehua Kalua present in court via zoom September 10, 2021 in the Discover case.
Lehua Kalua not present in court September 24, 2021 in the Midland case.
Lehua Kalua not present in court October 1, 2021 in the Bank of America case.
Kalua’s court submissions reveal $111K annual income--which, according to the filings, is 90% of Hawaii’s median family income. Kalua reported monthly earnings of $5,382.27 from his own employment and another $3,750 per month earned by Lehua Kalua--apparently consisting of foster and adoptive parent subsidies. They also received $278 per month in food stamps.
According to Kalua’s bankruptcy petition, his assets exceed liabilities. The largest liability is a $345K mortgage, with a monthly payment of $1,842.71, taken out in July, 2018, against the Kaluas’ Puha Street Waimanalo Hawaiian Homelands house valued at $785K. Beyond that, the Kaluas list $130K in unsecured debts -- mostly credit card debts and lines of credit from credit unions.
Nothing in the bankruptcy filing references any effort to consolidate debts by refinancing the mortgage.
In the July, 2020, bankruptcy petition, the Kaluas listed three ‘foster children’ ages 1, 5, and 11.
But the criminal complaint, November, 2021, differs:
11. Lehua and her husband Isaac Kalua, III, also known as Sonny, (hereinafter "Isaac") adopted three of the biological children of Joseph and Sellers including I.M.K. (2009), I.P.K., I.L.K. (2018). They are also the foster parents of A.J. (2020), who is another biological child of Joseph and Sellers.
12. Pursuant to a search warrant approved and signed by the Honorable Karin L. Holma, and documented as S.W. No. 2021-496, Affiant received records from the State of Hawaii Child Welfare Services (hereinafter "CWS"). The records indicated that I.M.K. and I.P.K. began residing with Lehua and Isaac in February 2019.
13. The CWS records also included an Adoption Decree filed on February 11, 2021. The Adoption Decree indicated that the decree was effective January 26, 2021.
According to the North American Council on Adoptable Children, monthly Hawaii “adoption subsidies” including a “difficulty of care rate” for “member(s) of a sibling group of two or more children adopted by the same family” are:
At the time of Isabella’s death, the total for the three adopted children would be: $1,902 + $1,710 = $3,612/month plus foster board payments of $576/month for the fourth child totaling $4,188/month. (Note the $3,750 per month earned by Lehua Kalua was from July, 2020 -- prior to the adoption of Isabella and the fostering of the fourth child.)
But in the Kaluas’ bankruptcy case they outline household expenses totaling $5,012--$1,842 mortgage and $3,179 for other household expenses including $970 “food and housekeeping supplies.” This means that after covering household expenses, the wife’s income was less than $600/month.
Perhaps the slightest shift in lifestyle was just too much to expect.
Nothing in the bankruptcy filing references any effort to reduce the Kaluas’ $1,168/month utility bills or the $47/mo paid for an ‘alarm system’ which might have been designed to prevent the kids from sneaking $47 worth of food.
Was the cost of buying a dog cage online just a capital investment designed to assist in keeping food expenses down so the wife would be profitable?
According to prosecutors, the duct tape was stolen from Pearl Harbor.
*Lehua Kalua --under maiden name Kanahele (Case# 1PC001001328 -- Class C Felony, Promoting a Dangerous Drug filed June 27, 2000. After bouncing around several clean and sober homes, graduated from Drug Court Sept 5, 2002. The charges were then dismissed.)
Nov, 2021: Police Allege Isabella Kalua Duct-Taped and Locked in Dog Cage Before Death
PDF: Criminal Complaint Nov 12, 2021
PDF: Kaluas Grand Jury Indictment 2021-11-17
State v ISAAC K. KALUA, III, Defendant-Appellant. 2001
ECRIM: Isaac Kalua III
Bankruptcy: 1:2020bk00846 Kalua, Isaac Kauluhaimalama