Hawaii authorities have recovered items in a canal area on a military base that may be related to the disappearance of 6-year-old Isabella Kalua, whose adoptive parents said they last saw her sleeping in her bed at their home on Sunday night.
A Honolulu police spokeswoman on Friday confirmed that the items included a photo album but declined to say what the pictures show. Local reports that a recovered bag contained slippers and toys remain uncorroborated.
Teams from the Honolulu fire department on Friday were continuing to search the canal region at Bellows Air Force Station – just a few miles from the Kalua home in Waimanalo.
HPD homicide Lt. Deena Thoemmes on Friday said further tests needed to be conducted on the items already discovered and it was “too premature to say whether the items are related to this investigation”.
The case has captivated Hawaii and the country, fuelled not only by the missing child at its centre but the complications and questions that surround it.
Isabella, born Ariel Sellers, was fostered and adopted within the last year by Sonny and Lehua Kalua, who also recently withdrew her from virtual learning to homeschool her.
The kindergartner’s biological parents lost custody after battling drug abuse. The Kaluas took in Isabella and three of her siblings.
It has been her biological relatives, however, who have been more visible and vocal since her disappearance. Her adoptive parents have not joined in search parties or spoken publicly, and Sonny Kalua’s 2001 assault convictions have raised questions about Isabella’s placement in the home.
A family friend has hit back at any scepticism involving the Kaluas.
“We all make mistakes in our lives,” well-known criminal defense attorney William Harrison told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “If we paid our debt to society, why are we branded with a scarlet letter? Something done 20 years ago should not affect your life now … We have laws you cannot discriminate against someone.”
“He’s had a checkered past and he’s gotten over that,” said Harrison, who has known the Kaluas for 10 years and told the paper he shares their Christian values. “He’s always been a good person, a good provider for his family … They’re devastated, and I’m upset to see how they’re being attacked by everybody.”
Sonny Kalua told AP that the family had been “instructed by the detectives from day one that we’re not supposed to talk to reporters”.
He and his wife turned over home surveillance and allowed a full police search of their house on Monday after reporting Isabella missing when they say they discovered she wasn’t in bed around 6am.
Since Isabella’s disappearance, hundreds of police and volunteers have been combing eastern Oahu – with some even taking off work or closing business to join the search.
A police spokeswoman said Friday that foul play had not been ruled out, and Isabella’s biological mother, Melanie Joseph – who last saw her daughter about a year ago – told the Star-Advertise that she believes “something happened”.
The investigation is ongoing.