When Carl Brewer was Wichita mayor from 2007 to 2015, he saw City Council members break down when they learned of tragedies striking someone in their city.
“I’ve seen a lot of these things happen to people,” Brewer said Wednesday. His resonant voice halted. And for a minute, he couldn’t say a word as a tear swelled in his eye.
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Now, the 60-year-old former mayor and Kansas gubernatorial candidate is one of the stricken. Wichita police said Tuesday they have preliminary evidence that remains found in a suspicious concrete structure in a south Wichita home are the body of Brewer’s 3-year-old grandson, Evan Brewer.
On Wednesday, Brewer and his wife, Cathy Brewer, explained their family’s concerns about Evan before he died and the unsuccessful efforts to confirm that he was safe.
Evan’s father, Carlo Brewer, worked through the court system, the state child protective agency and police – raising concerns about the safety of his son, they said. The boy disappeared for a time.
Brewer and his wife said it’s too early to know whether the system failed their grandson. They’re not pointing fingers.
“The only thing we know is there is a little boy (who was) loved … that was happy, that lost his life for no reason,” Brewer said.
“Something went wrong, certainly, because somebody died. You can’t help think, ‘What could have been done?’”
As police continue to investigate Evan’s death, the boy’s mother, Miranda Miller, 36, and Stephen Bodine, 40, are in jail. Bodine has been described as Miller’s boyfriend, and he was staying at Miller’s rental home on South Vine. She has been charged with aggravated interference with parental custody. He has been charged with aggravated assault.
Tension over visitation
One of the reasons the Brewers said they spoke to an Eagle reporter Wednesday is to share their grandson’s personality and to show respect for his life.
Evan was “a good-looking, very imaginative little boy,” Brewer said.
“Batman was his thing,” his grandmother added. She babysat him when he was first born. He was one of the couple’s 13 grandchildren.
One of their tall grandchildren would hold Evan up to the ceiling so he could “walk” upside down on it.
Carlo Brewer and Miller had a relationship that fell apart, and the couple had an informal agreement to share custody of Evan, the Brewers said.
But eventually Miller wanted her son to have no contact with his father’s family, the Brewers said. They had to send presents for him through a third party. Miller stopped allowing visitation around early March, they said.
The Brewers began to have concerns about Evan’s environment: The boy would try to choke his siblings, and they wondered whether he had witnessed his mother being harmed, they said. They didn’t think their grandson was being choked.
Bodine, the boyfriend, and Miller, the mother, had been involved with each other since at least February, the Brewers thought.
Bodine announced that the Brewer family had to get his permission to see Evan, the Brewers said. Carlo Brewer and Bodine communicated by text messages.
At one point, Carlo Brewer went to see his son and saw that his nose had been cut, the Brewers said. The Brewers’ understanding is that the father’s friend contacted a child abuse hotline, and then the state Department for Children and Families was informed. Carlo Brewer also called police about the nose injury, asking that they check on the boy.
But the Brewers’ understanding is that checks might not have occurred because the mother didn’t come to the door.
DCF relied on Miller’s word that her son was OK, without seeing the boy, the Brewers said.
DCF has declined to comment on Evan’s case.
Their son wanted Evan to be seen by a doctor.
On July 6, Carlo Brewer obtained a protection from abuse order on behalf of Evan, police have said.
“So after that, it seemed like things started spiraling,” Brewer said.
The Brewers have a daughter who once worked for DCF and a niece who is an attorney, and they and other family members began discussing what could be done for Evan. The family shared their concerns with neighbors who lived on South Vine where Evan lived in a rental home that was supposed to be occupied only by him and his mother, according to court documents concerning the eviction.
The Brewer family also voiced their concerns to the landlord, who later obtained an eviction.
There was tension between Carlo Brewer and Bodine, with each man calling the police, the Brewers said.
An officer with the Exploited and Missing Child Unit helped his son with the court process, Brewer said. “That police officer really went above and beyond.”
By early August, the missing child unit helped compile a missing poster about Evan.
‘Where is Evan?’ protest
Also in August, concerned neighbors and Brewer family members were protesting nightly in front of the home where the boy was supposed to be living, with signs saying, “Where’s Evan?” and “Give us Evan.”
Neighbors watched the home for the Brewer family.
At one point, someone blacked out windows on the house, the Brewers said.
Police tried to check on the boy, sometimes banging on the door, Cathy Brewer said.
Another question: How was Evan’s body not found sooner, after Miller and Bodine had been arrested.
“They (police) went there to see a living boy, and they didn’t see it,” and so they moved on, Brewer said. His son also checked the home after the couple had apparently left it.
The Brewers suspect that the concrete structure in which the body was found had been at the house all along but wasn’t noticed by police or their son.
The Brewers described the structure as a workbench filled with concrete.
Brewer referred to it Wednesday as a “concrete coffin.”
The landlord noticed the concrete structure on Saturday after it was giving off an odor, and police made the grisly discovery.
‘Kind of surreal’
When the Brewers found out what happened, Cathy Brewer said, “It was just kind of surreal.”
They’re waiting on the investigation to resolve their questions. They’re waiting on final confirmation that the body is Evan’s.
Brewer said he and his family need time and space to deal with their loss.
He wants to spend time on his deck – visualizing Evan out on the play set.
He’s receiving condolences from around the state. As he and his wife got out of their car in the parking lot outside The Eagle on Wednesday, former council member and County Commissioner Jim Skelton stopped his pickup, walked over to Brewer and gave him a hug.
Gov. Sam Brownback called Tuesday, offered condolences and told Brewer he would look into DCF involvement in the case, Brewer said.
For now, Brewer, a Democrat, is taking a break from his campaign for governor.
But he hopes that when he gets back on the trail, he can turn the conversation back to the business of the state and campaigning, he said. He doesn’t want every conversation to be about his personal loss, he said.
Cathy Brewer said she and one of her grandchildren, who both volunteer with the Humane Society, are continuing to spend time there around animals.
They cuddle with kittens.
“You can’t think about this all the time,” she said of their tragedy. “It will make you ill. … You can’t be absorbed with this.”