Three-year-old Evan Brewer’s mother says her boyfriend killed her son. She was there when it happened, she testified, and she said she is partially responsible for his death.
Miranda Miller and her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, are both charged with first-degree felony murder in the boy's death. At a hearing Monday, Miller testified that the last time she saw Evan she was giving him CPR after Bodine slapped him and took him into the bathroom when he started screaming. It was on an afternoon in May 2017.
She said leading up to the assault, Evan had been sick for three days and was refusing food and drink. When he did eat, he vomited.
The morning he died, Miller testified, she had gotten Evan up from bed after he wouldn't lie still on his stomach. She took him into the kitchen for breakfast, but Evan refused food again. Bodine, she testified, said he needed to be force fed so she gave her son doughnuts and juice. To keep the boy from gagging on the food, she and Bodine hit him, she testified.
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When Evan didn't eat fast enough, the pair ordered him to get down from the table and go stand in a corner for punishment. After a few hours of standing with his hands behind his back, Evan collapsed and wouldn't get up when he was told to.
Bodine, Miller testified, became angry, grabbed Evan to force him up then "hauled off ... and full-strength slapped him" with either an open hand or the back of his hand - she couldn't remember which. When Evan started screaming, Bodine took him into the bathroom and shut the door, she said in court.
When Bodine opened it a short time later, Evan's hair was wet and he was unresponsive, Miller said.
Bodine told her, "I need you to be as calm as you can be. And do CPR," she testified.
Miller said she tried to perform the CPR in the bathroom but there wasn't enough room, so they took him to the living room and then to Evan's room. She tried reviving him for 45 minutes, she said. "I got him to take a breath and then he stopped breathing again" at one point, she said.
A few days later in the laundry room of the rental house, Bodine mixed up several bags of concrete he and Miller had bought at two hardware stores and buried Evan's body in it, Miller testified. She said she had a "feeling he was going to put Evan’s body in concrete" when she heard the whir of his drill mixing the powdered cement with water.
"Stephen wanted to hurry up and take care of Evan before he started to smell," she testified.
Miller's testimony came during the first day of the preliminary hearing for Bodine, who is charged with killing Evan and then encasing his body in concrete in the laundry room of the house they rented at 2037 S. Vine in Wichita. His body was discovered by the landlord on Sept. 2.
Miller's account is the first that gives specific details about what exactly happened leading up to Evan's death and how he died. His autopsy didn't reveal a specific cause of death because his body was found in a significant state of decomposition, a forensic pathologist testified.
Evan's death has drawn attention not only because it involves the disturbing death of a child, but because it has raised questions about the child protection system in Kansas. It's also garnered attention because Evan is the grandson of former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.
When she was asked by prosecutor Justin Edwards who killed Evan, Miller replied: “Stephen Bodine.”
“Were you there when he died?” Edwards asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you share responsibility for the death of your son?”
The preliminary hearing is to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to send Bodine to trial as charged. Miller on Monday morning waived her right to the same type of hearing. She entered a not guilty plea and agreed to testify against her boyfriend. Both remain in jail on a $500,000 bond on the first-degree-murder charge.
She called Bodine 'her king'
In addition to answering questions about the day her son died, Miller testified in court about how she met Bodine and when the violence against Evan began. She said she moved to the south Wichita house at 2037 S. Vine in the spring of 2015. At first, Miller and Evan lived alone. She wasn't with Evan's father, Carlo Brewer, anymore.
She worked two jobs and got help caring for Evan and paying the bills from friends and some of Carlo Brewer’s family. Then, the help tapered off.
And Bodine, who was just a friend then, offered to help and moved in. The pair started a romantic relationship in October 2016. At that time, she said in court, “everything was fine. We was like best friends.”
The violence started the following month. At first, it was only against her. Bodine would sometimes discipline Evan with a swat on the bottom – but nothing Miller thought was extreme, she testified.
But Bodine’s attitude toward Evan changed in late February or March of 2017, she said. The couple began arguing over how Evan should be punished. Bodine would say “he needs discipline. He doesn’t need mommy babying him,” and “Evan needs to earn his things. Evan needs to earn his clothes. Evan needs to earn his toys. Evan needs to earn his food," Miller testified.
“I wasn’t allowed to help him,” Miller testified, referring to her son.
“I wanted my son happy. He was happy. I’m not good with confrontation. I’m not good with arguments I don’t like to say no. And I don’t like violence,” Miller said in court. “Yes, I would spank Evan, but not very hard.”
Bodine would say “you need to be stronger with him, he needs to feel it,” Miller testified. “… If Stephen didn’t feel like I was being hard enough on Evan, he would take over."
In court, Miller said that she called Bodine "her king" and said she was going to marry him, even after Evan's death.
"For my safety I thought it was best to keep Stephen happy," she testified.
Home surveillance video shows abuse
A police affidavit released in December revealed recorded and time-stamped abuse of Evan Brewer on March 12 — almost six months before his body was found wrapped in a Ninja Turtle sheet and buried in concrete. The footage of the abuse was captured on a home surveillance system set up in several locations around Evan's home. The system used old cellphones that started recording video and audio when they detected motion.
Wichita police Detective Christian Cory testified Monday in court that the agency recovered at least 15,000 files from the home surveillance setup that had been uploaded to a Google Cloud account. There were at least 500 to 600 hours of video. Some of the footage shows times when law enforcement came to Evan's home in the months leading up to the discovery of his body, he testified.
Video clips from three dates that prosecutors opted to show in court Monday illustrate the verbal and physical abuse Evan suffered before his death:
▪ In timestamped video from March 12, 2017, a child can be seen naked from the waist down in the basement of Evan's home. A man's voice, who Cory testified matches Bodine's, can be heard saying "every time he (expletive) wiggles, there's motion." The voice also taunts the child: "Smart guy. Think you can hear me coming now? Think you're so smart. Bet you you can't. Bet you you're not."
Later clips of the video show a child's shadowy silhouette as the man is saying "I'll find out what you're doing," "Do not remind me that you're in my house," and "I'm (expletive) sick of you dude."
The video coincides with photos prosecutors entered into evidence Monday morning that show Evan standing naked next to a basement wall with his hands behind his back and a belt tightened around his neck.
Miller, Evan's mother, testified later Monday that she was the one who put the belt around Evan's neck because Bodine told her that "children need to be treated like dogs."
▪ Footage from March 27, 2017, captures audio of a man repeatedly taunting and chastising a child off camera. The man warns the child to behave and expresses anger that the child doesn't greet him with "Hello, daddy" in a tone he approves of.
“That attitude, Evan?" the man's voice on the video says at one point, "It’s done. And if it’s not going to be done, you’re going to be done.” At another point, the man says: "(Expletive) sick of your (expletive.) Want to keep giving me (expletive) attitude, I’m going to keep coming."
Occasionally, the child yells back or cries.
▪ A short clip from May 19, 2017, shows Evan lying in a toddler-style bed in pajamas. When he stirs, his mother, stomps toward the bed, spanks the boy and turns him over. “What do you think you’re doing. You are supposed to be on your stomach,” she yells. “You’re not supposed to be moving!” She hits Evan a second time and says, “I said don’t move again" before walking away.
Cory testified in court that the pajamas Evan was wearing in the May 19 video is the same clothing found on his body when he was removed from the concrete block he was encased in.
Evan died sometime after the security surveillance system captured footage of the boy on May 19, Miller testified.
A police affidavit previously released by the court showed that Evan suffered as his father’s family tried repeatedly to get the Kansas Department for Children and Families, Wichita police and judges to intervene for the boy, family spokeswoman Shayla Johnston said in December. Although some police and one judge did everything they could to help Evan, the rest of the child protection system failed the boy, Johnston said. She is an attorney and a cousin of Evan’s father, Carlo Brewer. Carlo Brewer is a son of former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, a Democrat who is running for governor.
Records that DCF released to The Eagle in March showed that for more than a year, people reported to the state that Evan was suffering in a home of chronic methamphetamine users – that Bodine allegedly choked the child until he became unconscious.
The records also said that Miller was not protecting Evan from Bodine and that he was dragging her by her hair and had bragged about choking her and her son. The abuse reached the point that the boy had accidents because he feared walking to the bathroom in the morning because he would have to pass the adults’ bedroom, the records said.
Bodine's daughter testifies about 'bathtub violence'
Also on Monday morning, prosecutors called Bodine's biological daughter, Samantha Johnson, to the witness stand to testify about her childhood with Bodine. Johnson, now 23, said she was adopted by Bodine's parents when she was 6 1/2 or 7 so that she could have a safer living environment. While living with Bodine, she said she endured abuse and violence.
One form was "bathtub violence," where her dad would splash water in her face and dunk her in the water to the point where she nearly drowned.
She said he would force her to stand in a corner for hours as a punishment for crying. If she fell asleep, she said he would hit her head into the wall.
Johnson said Bodine would also hit her with his hand, a fly swatter, books and other household items as punishment for crying or talking back as a young child. Johnson said there was a time in kindergarten when she couldn't go to school because of bruises on her body. Other times, she would wear long sleeves that covered those markings.
Johnson said she also experienced forms of sexual assault by Bodine's friends while he was in another room.
"He didn't like children," Johnson said while at the witness stand.