For more than a year, people reported to the state that 3-year-old Evan Brewer was suffering in a home of chronic methamphetamine users – that the mother’s boyfriend choked the child until he became unconscious.
The grim details appear in an inch-thick stack of records released by the Kansas Department for Children and Families to The Eagle just before 5 p.m. Friday.
DCF, which investigates reports of child abuse and neglect, kept collecting and compiling reports: that Evan’s mother was regularly high on meth, staying in bed and not feeding him real meals.
And most disturbing: alleging that she was not protecting Evan from her abusive live-in boyfriend, who dragged her by her hair and bragged about choking her and her son. The abuse reached the point that the boy had accidents – he feared walking to the bathroom in the morning because he would have to pass the adults’ bedroom.
The child protection system never removed Evan from the hell described in the records.
And the state made a mistake.
A report of detailed allegations of abuse was not forwarded to a social worker investigating the case, according to the DCF records. A spokeswoman for the Brewer family said Saturday that the May 14 report was the state’s last chance to save Evan before he was murdered.
Police kept going to the home. But the adults never let them in. Social workers and police who could have intervened couldn’t manage to contact Evan’s mother and see whether the boy was OK.
The reports of abuse kept coming month after month, and then Evan’s body was discovered encased in concrete in early September. The landlord found the tomb in the laundry room of Evan’s rental home and called police. The mother, Miranda Miller, and her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, are in jail and charged with murdering Evan.
The Wichita Eagle obtained the records after extensive legal efforts.
Before releasing the partially redacted records to The Eagle and Evan’s family on Friday, DCF staff tried to black out every instance of Evan’s name and the boyfriend’s name in the documents, but missed a few. Every sheet in the records says “EBrewer” at the bottom.
Mistakes were made
Shayla Johnston, a Brewer family spokeswoman, said that DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel and a state attorney met with her and Evan’s father, Carlo Brewer, on Friday afternoon.
The state officials admitted that DCF made mistakes in handling the case and that it involved allegations of severe abuse that should have been forwarded to an investigator but were not, Johnston said.
Meier-Hummel and the state attorney said a form was altered, Johnston said. The state officials told her “there was dishonesty” in the “alteration of a document.”
The state also determined that no action was needed regarding Evan before he died, according to documents.
In a written statement Friday, Meier-Hummel said “she shares the family’s outrage and heartbreak for the tragic loss of Evan. Changes to strengthen the system have already begun, and I vow these will continue.” Reforms will include holding employees accountable, updating and improving procedures and holding mandatory training, she said.
Living in fear
At 8:20 p.m. on May 14, someone called DCF to report that Evan was having accidents because he was afraid to walk past the adults’ bedroom to go to the bathroom.
The mother’s boyfriend had pulled her through the house by her hair, the caller reported. The boyfriend had bragged to someone that “he has taken them to the brink of death and brought them back using CPR,” the caller said. The boyfriend bragged about choking a child, documents said.
It said the person heard that (name redacted) “had a gash on the top of his nose about a month ago,” but it was unknown how he got the injury and if he has any current injuries.
The caller “believes the adults are using meth” and fighting while under the influence.
The caller said “(name redacted) can be very intimidating. … (Name redacted) has … explosive anger issues.” The person with anger issues had intentionally lost 45 pounds using drugs, the caller said.
The adults were using meth, and they kept drugs in a baggie in a red backpack that the boyfriend kept on him, the caller said.
The report said “several people have made reports to DCF and nothing has been done about it,” that the mother “won’t answer the door and allow law enforcement to enter the home.”
“(Name redacted) was barricaded in his bedroom with mattresses against the windows” so people couldn’t see in, it said.
The details went on for 41 lines.
The allegations were similar to those made to the agency on May 4. In both cases, DCF initially determined that the child was safe, records show.
Evan’s last chance
When DCF found out Evan was dead, its executive team ordered a review of the way it handled the case.
The review found “an existing record in the DCF data system was not in compliance with agency policy at the time when the information was received on May 14, 2017.”
Theresa Freed, the DCF spokeswoman said in a statement that the agency would not answer questions.
“Given the family’s stated desire to move to litigation, we will not be in a position to further comment or clarify,” the statement read. “We sincerely appreciate the family meeting with us, and as the Secretary vowed when she was appointed in December 2017, and during the conversation with this family, we will make needed changes.”
A note in the May 14 file says the record was modified to inaccurately show that the reported information was communicated to the assigned social worker and the social worker’s supervisor – when neither knew of additional allegations before Evan’s body was found. The inaccuracy was referred for possible disciplinary action.
Johnston believes the May 14 report to the state was the last one made before Evan was killed.
“That’s why DCF is so concerned about their report – because it was the last time to save Evan’s life,” she said.
The Brewer family thinks Evan died between May 14 – when he was last seen alive by a family friend and the landlord – and May 26.
On May 26, Miller bought concrete, threaded rod and a concrete trowel at a hardware store, a police affidavit says. Evan was found buried in concrete.
The May 14 report, Johnston said, “was on the eve of Evan’s imminent death.”
What’s not clear is what DCF could have done to intervene, she said.
But Johnston, who is an attorney, added, “The legal significance is that ‘imminent physical harm’ is cause for DCF to ask to get a warrant to go into the house.”
At 4:52 p.m. May 4, 2017, someone called DCF to say that it looked as if Evan had a broken nose.
The person said the last time they saw (redacted) was “through the door, because Miranda would not let them in the home.”
When the person asked the mother what happened, “she said he fell, and then shut the door,” the report said.
The person said that they called police immediately after leaving the house to see if officers could check on the boy. But when police arrived, “they did not answer the door.”
The person said that she had been told that (name redacted) was bragging about choking Evan until he passed out, then giving him CPR to revive him. (Name redacted) has done time in prison in another state for choking a woman, the caller said.
The person said they called police every day, but each time officers went to the house on South Vine, nobody came to the door, the report said.
It said that the (redacted) controlled Miller “in every way” and that he “got Miranda to submit to him, and he just has to beat it into (redacted) now.”
Miller had become “so brain-washed, that she doesn’t do anything to stop the abuse.”
The person said that Evan’s father was trying to get visitation rights and custody but that Miller kept failing to appear in court.
The report said the father “would have done something sooner” but he didn’t find out that he was the father until Evan was 2.
The person said they they don’t know where Evan is, “and they would like to make sure he is okay.”
An April 22, 2017, a DCF intake report about Miller and Evan dealt with concerns about physical abuse of Evan by Bodine, the boyfriend.
“Mom isn’t doing anything to protect the child either,” the report said.
It described Evan being knocked unconscious during a bath, having no pulse and being revived.