The letter from the Kansas Department of Corrections reached Kristen Beaudette’s Goddard home in August 2010.
She thought she and her daughter were protected from the man who had broken her daughter’s arm when the girl was a month old.
Beaudette and her daughter had new identities – new names, new birth certificates and new Social Security numbers – and a protection-from-abuse order that barred the daughter’s father from having direct or indirect contact with her.
Beaudette said she felt safe in her new home until she got to the line in the letter that said: “It is in her best interest to relocate as soon as possible.”
“How in the world did he find me?” she asked herself before packing her belongings and leaving the state in a U-Haul in an attempt to get away from Ty Barnett.
After spending several months with a sister in Illinois, Beaudette returned to Kansas last year and has since become a victims’ rights advocate. She has been asked to tell her story Monday to a legislative committee that is considering a bill that would allow some crime victims to obtain lifetime protection-from-abuse orders from those who might cause them harm.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation deputy director Kyle Smith said Beaudette’s story was largely responsible for a decision by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office’s to include the lifetime protection bill on a list of recommended laws sent to the 2012 Kansas Legislature.
Sarah McKinnon, who was Barnett’s lawyer when he was convicted of aggravated battery in Sedgwick County District Court in 2003, said she couldn’t comment on specifics of Barnett’s situation. But she noted in general terms that protection-from-abuse orders, which are typically issued for one year, are routinely granted without the involvement of any lawyers.
McKinnon, who is now chief public defender in Reno County, said she thought the target of such an order should at least be represented by a lawyer.
“As a defense attorney, I see a huge problem with having a lifelong order issued against someone who is without benefit of counsel,” she said.
The bill — House Bill No. 2613 — says that if a person who is named as a defendant in a protection-from-abuse order violates that order, or if that person commits or attempts to commit a serious felony, a judge may extend the protective order “for no less than two additional years and up to a period of time not to exceed the lifetime of the defendant.”
Two victims of abuse
Beaudette, who asked that her legal name not be used for this story, said she trusted the criminal justice system when she was growing up in Goddard in the 1980s. She was the daughter of a Sedgwick County sheriff’s sergeant, she said, and led a sheltered life.
She said she was working as a bartender at King Arthur’s bar on West Central in Wichita in September 2002 when Barnett walked into the business.
“He had a sense of humor,” she said. “And he was very charming.”
After the two started dating, she said, she learned that Barnett had spent time in prison on a Saline County child-abuse conviction.
“He blamed it on a bad lawyer,” she said. She said she eventually learned that the conviction stemmed from near-fatal injuries inflicted on the infant daughter of Barnett’s girlfriend. That girl, who was less than 3 months old, suffered burns to the head and numerous broken bones. The child was in a coma in a therapeutic home in Wichita when Barnett was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. She died after he went to prison.
Beaudette said she and Barnett were living in a studio apartment in west Wichita when she gave birth to their daughter in August 2003.
About a month later, she said, their daughter became Barnett’s second victim. Beaudette said she was on her patio talking to her mother on the telephone when she heard her daughter scream. She went inside and could tell immediately that something was seriously wrong with her daughter’s right arm.
“It was just hanging, like a Raggedy Ann doll’s,” she said.
Barnett told her the arm had gotten caught in the crib. She said she didn’t press the issue. She was only interested in getting her daughter to what was then Riverside Hospital.
“I didn’t think about calling the police,” she said. “All I knew was I had to get to the hospital to get my baby looked at.”
Beaudette said she told doctors that a friend was watching her daughter when the injury occurred. She said doctors later told her that the child had chip fractures in a knee and wrist. She was told to take her daughter to her family doctor the next day. She said detectives with the Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit met her at the doctor’s office.
“I told them the truth,” she said. “I told them what happened.”
Beaudette said her daughter was taken into protective custody that day, and she was told to report to City Hall the next day for a second interview. During that interview, she said, “It started to click that it might have been an intentional thing.”
She said Barnett didn’t show up for his scheduled interview at City Hall but was later found at a South Broadway motel. He eventually pleaded no contest to a felony charge of aggravated battery and was sentenced to six years and three months in prison. Now he is being held at the Winfield Correctional Facility, and he is scheduled to be released June 1.
Letter of warning
The Department of Corrections letter said that while in prison, Barnett had expressed a desire to be reunited with his daughter. The letter said Beaudette was not to be part of the reunion.
The letter also noted that Barnett had learned — apparently from a former inmate who had been paroled to Goddard — where Beaudette was living.
“Perhaps most concerning is that the offender described exactly where (Beaudette) and her daughter are currently residing,” the letter said.
Beaudette said she doesn’t regret her decision to return to Kansas.
“This is where I was raised,” she said. “This is where I was brought up. I wanted to get some kind of normalcy back in my life. I couldn’t keep running for the rest of my life.”