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Boyfriend draws 70-month prison sentence in case involving child’s death from house fire

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 26, 2014, at 3 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, June 27, 2014, at 4 p.m.

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Correction: Adrian Johnson was sentenced to 70 months in prison. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.

A man who was supposed to be watching his girlfriend’s children when one died in a Wichita house fire was sentenced Thursday to 70 months in prison.

Adrian C. Johnson, 24, was handed the sentence by Sedgwick District Court Judge Joseph Bribiesca a day after the children’s mother was given 36 months probation.

Johnson’s prison time includes 19 months for three counts of child endangerment. Fifty-one months of his sentence are for two separate cases that resulted in guilty pleas to three felony counts of drug possession.

Johnson also had a prior conviction in a 2009 theft case in Sedgwick County, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.

Ruthie Bell had left three of her children – ages 4 to 7 at the time – with Johnson at her southeast Wichita house on July 11 while she went to work at her state-paid job to care for her mother. Johnson later left the house, leaving the children alone.

Bell’s 6-year-old daughter, Ja’Kara Dickson, began playing with a lighter about 7 p.m., catching her clothes and the house on fire. Ja’Kara died two days later from the burns. Her two sisters weren’t seriously injured.

Bell pleaded no contest last month to three counts of endangering a child and two counts of aggravated interference with parental custody.

Johnson pleaded guilty last month to three counts of child endangerment and the drug charges.

His drug cases go back to August 2012, when he was charged with two counts of possession – one for Ecstasy, one for marijuana. That case was continued multiple times before he was charged in January 2013 with possession again of marijuana.

Johnson received probation for the 2009 theft conviction. But he violated conditions of that probation and was sentenced to 3 1/2 weeks in prison in January 2010, said Jeremy Barclay, a spokesman for KDOC.

The state has custody of Bell’s five children, including two others younger than the ones who were at the house at the time of the fire. Bell is involved in an ongoing child-in-need-of-care case in attempt to regain custody of the children.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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