Twenty-three days before an EMS crew took 3-year-old Emma Krueger to a Wichita hospital, with bruises covering her body and her brain swelling, two Wichita police officers went to check on the girl because someone was worried enough to call 911 about her.
The officers made it to the right building at the Falcon Pointe Apartments, 4244 S. Hydraulic.
But they went to the wrong apartment; the 911 caller had given the wrong apartment number.
The protectors with authority to immediately remove a child from danger got that close to Emma a little over three weeks before she died. Police have said she suffered beatings for perhaps a month before she ended up in protective custody in the pediatric intensive care unit at Wesley Medical Center on June 2.
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Because the caller gave the wrong apartment number, the officers knocked at another family’s door, according to information The Eagle has pieced together from a resident, from emergency dispatch records and from a recording of the 911 dispatcher.
What the officers did next – whether they continued to look for Emma – is not clear.
The Police Department said an ongoing criminal investigation restricts its comments.
On Monday, prosecutors charged Emma’s mother, Monica Krueger, 24, and her mother’s boyfriend, Evan Schuessler, 23, with first-degree murder in the girl’s death. The charges say they inflicted the injuries between May 23 and early June. Police said the girl could have suffered beatings for maybe a month before her mother called 911 to say she wasn’t breathing. Krueger and Schuessler remain in the Sedgwick County Jail on bonds of $150,000 each.
According to a recording of 911 radio traffic about 4:40 p.m. May 10, a dispatcher relayed information that came from a caller who wanted to remain anonymous. The dispatcher told the officers that the caller was concerned about bruising on a child’s back. Two police units were dispatched.
The dispatcher said they were to check on a girl named Emma, age 4, who was with her 24-year-old mother named Monica and a man in his 20s named Evan Schuessler.
The apartment number relayed by the dispatcher was similar to Emma’s apartment number.
The police knocked on Kelly Stocking’s door. She remembers it this way:
It was late afternoon or early evening on a weekend when two police officers, a male and a female in uniform, came to her door. The male officer asked if Monica was there.
After Stocking said she didn’t know any Monica, the male officer said they had received a report that Monica was abusing her 4-year-old daughter.
He said something like “Let me check the address,” leaned back and spoke into his lapel microphone. In the recording, a man can be heard asking for the apartment number, and the dispatcher gave him the number for Stocking’s apartment.
The officer told Stocking he was sorry to bother her and left. The officers had been there a couple of minutes. She didn’t see where the officers went.
Later, after Stocking heard the news that a girl named Emma living at the apartment complex had been severely beaten and that her mother’s name was Monica, she figured they were the ones that police had been looking for three weeks earlier.
“I think about that every day,” she said. “If they had just gone to the right apartment. It makes me sick.”
Stocking said she didn’t know Emma or her mother and hadn’t seen the girl around the apartments. Police have said that Emma had lived at the apartments with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend for about three months.
‘Could they have done more?’
Emma’s extended family has described her as a happy child who loved chocolate milk and chocolate-covered strawberries and enjoyed going to garage sales. A photo shows Emma grasping a pink rose. Another picture shows her beaming, with a butterfly design decorating her cheek.
A member of Emma’s extended family, who asked not to be named because of safety concerns, said relatives have questions about how police handled the 911 call.
“Could they have done more? Should they have done more? Did they do more? If not, we would like their guidelines to be reviewed to keep this from ever happening to another family again,” the relative said.
“Who knows what they could have found if they got to the right door.” It raises the question of whether Emma’s death could have been prevented, the relative said.
Daphne Young, a spokeswoman for Childhelp, a national organization that works to prevent and treat child abuse, noted that police did show some effort to respond to the 911 call and that they were given the wrong number. If police didn’t do all they could have done, “it’s right for the community to ask could they have done more,” she said.
But the question should not extend just to police, Young said. She said it raises the question of whether others could have done more.
“With a child death, there’s rarely one thing,” and there’s a tendency to point fingers, Young said. “You can tunnel back and see 50 places where a child was failed at one time.”
The reality across the nation, she said, is that sometimes it takes more than one report of abuse “to get action.”
Capt. Doug Nolte, a police spokesman, said he was limited in what he could say because of the ongoing criminal case. Nolte said he could confirm that there was a 911 call, from someone who wanted to be anonymous, at 4:40 p.m. May 10.
That was a Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, and the office at the apartments was closed.
Nolte said he could confirm that police did a “welfare check” on a child that same day at the apartment complex.
“And we had very limited information” to act on, Nolte said.
The state child protection agency, the Department for Children and Families, had no involvement with Emma before her death, said DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed.
Previous allegations of violence
In Emma’s mother’s application for a court-appointed attorney, she said she was employed by a day care and preschool. Krueger said she had previously worked at a pub.
On Schuessler’s application for an attorney, he said he had been unemployed for the past month and a half but had worked for a moving and storage business in the past six months. He wrote that he didn’t qualify for unemployment benefits.
According to the U.S. Army, Schuessler was a private in the infantry, serving from September 2009 to July 2011. He had no deployments.
The murder case isn’t the first time Schuessler has been accused of violence. According to a protection from abuse petition filed by his ex-wife in Sedgwick County District Court on Feb. 20, 2013, he “became physically violent due to drug useage and Bipolar.”
His ex-wife alleged that he slapped her on the face, grabbed her by the hair, knocked her head into a wall, threw her on a table, punched her in the legs and made “verbal death threats to friends, family and myself.” She said he was “continually taking my cell away so I can’t call for help.”
She wrote in the petition that she feared for her safety and her children’s safety.