Crime & Courts

Wichita child still critical but improving in alleged abuse case

Although a 3-year-old boy remained in critical condition Friday — with head injuries allegedly inflicted by his mother — his condition continued to improve, a police official said.

"We expect at this point that the child will survive, but again, the child is still critical," said Wichita police Lt. Jeff Weible, who heads the city-county Exploited and Missing Child Unit.

Because of the severity of the injuries, the exploited child unit and the police homicide unit are jointly investigating, Weible said.

On Thursday night, the boy showed signs of being responsive, and his condition continued to improve Friday, Weible said. The child is being treated in the pediatric intensive care unit at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.

The boy's 41-year-old mother has been booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated battery and child abuse, records show. She has previous convictions for forgery and aggravated escape from custody in Sedgwick County in 2006 and 2008, records show.

According to a preliminary police report, a 70-year-old woman, apparently a relative, said that the mother hit her son, causing injuries.

"It sounds like there was some frustration involved" on the part of the mother, Weible said without elaborating.

The mother had indicated that her son tripped and fell and struck his head, Weible said.

But investigators "developed probable cause that these injuries were caused by abuse," he said.

The child and his mother had been alone at a house in the 5600 block of North Sullivan in far north Wichita, Weible said. According to property records, the house is owned by the 70-year-old woman listed in the police report.

A 911 dispatcher received a call from a woman at 10:42 a.m. Thursday that her 3-year-old child was unresponsive, Weible said.

Several family members have been interviewed.

Although investigators are still looking at the family's background, "There's not much history involving this child," and it doesn't appear that the boy has previous injuries based on the investigation so far, he said.

Asked about a previous death in the family, Weible said it appears that the mother had a small child who died in the mid-1990s from what was ruled to be natural causes, related to an infection.

The woman has other children older than her 3-year-old son who are not living with her, he said.