Miranda Miller — who admitted in court that she helped abuse her 3-year-old son Evan Brewer in the months before his death — probably won't face more than 27 1/2 years in prison because of a plea deal she worked out with prosecutors.
Her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine, meanwhile could be sentenced to life in prison plus additional time if he's convicted of first-degree felony murder and the other crimes with which he's charged. On Tuesday following a two-day preliminary hearing, Sedgwick County District Judge Steve Ternes bound Bodine over for trial. There are six charges: two counts of first-degree felony murder, two of aggravated kidnapping, one of child abuse and one of aggravated child endangerment.
His trial date is set for May 21.
In the deal Miller worked out with prosecutors, she agreed to testify truthfully against Bodine about the extent of the torture Evan suffered, what she remembers about the day he died and afterward. She took the witness stand both Monday and Tuesday during Bodine's preliminary hearing to relay horrific and heartbreaking details of Evan's final days.
The account is the most detailed description of what happened to Evan given to date.
In exchange for testifying, Miller will be allowed to plead guilty to second-degree intentional murder, aggravated kidnapping, abuse of a child and aggravated child endangerment, Sedgwick County Deputy District Attorney Justin Edwards said in court.
The deal won't be finalized and her guilty plea entered until after she fulfills her part of the bargain and Bodine's trial is over.
Right now, Miller is charged with first-degree felony murder in connection with Evan's death. If she changes her mind about the plea deal, she will face that charge.
Evan's body was found encased in concrete on Sept. 2 in the south Wichita rental home where he lived with his mother and Bodine. The landlord of the house, 2037 S. Vine, discovered a massive concrete and wood structure in the laundry room and called police when he cracked it open.
In court this week, Miller admitted to doling out some of the abuse Evan suffered between March and May 2017 including beatings, allowing food and clothing to be withheld as punishment and placing a belt around Evan's neck so he could be chained naked to a basement wall.
But she pointed to Bodine as her son's killer.
Evan was killed sometime between May 18 and May 22 or 23, she said. The day he died, he had been sick for three days. He was force fed breakfast after he refused to eat, slapped when he gagged and made to stand in a corner for hours. When Evan collapsed, Bodine yanked him up, slapped him "full strength" and hauled the screaming boy into the bathroom, Miller testified. The next time she saw them, Evan was wet and unresponsive and Bodine told her to perform CPR.
He didn't recover.
"You understand you're going to prison," Edwards told Miller on Monday in court as he discussed the plea deal with her.
"Yes," she replied.
Bodine's defense attorney, Casey Cotton, on Tuesday questioned Miller's credibility in light of the deal and her reasons for waiting to disclose information about the abuse and how her son died.
She had refused to talk to police in the eight months since her arrest. Then last week, she asked her defense attorney what kind of deal prosecutors would offer for her side of the story, she said in court.
Asked why she didn't speak up before, Miller said she was scared of Bodine. She previously testified to calling Bodine "my king" and telling people she wanted to marry him even after Evan's death.
Cotton also pointed out in court that a forensic pathologist wasn't able to determine Evan's cause and manner of death. The autopsy results were inconclusive because Evan's body was decomposing, the pathologist testified Monday.
A ruling of death by homicide "I think would be required for the state to say that a murder was committed," Cotton said.
"Given the standard of evidence at this point, I think the state has failed to meet the burden."
When given an opportunity to enter a plea to the counts Tuesday, Bodine's attorney said his client would "stand mute," which means he did not to answer. The court entered a not-guilty plea on Bodine's behalf.
Ternes' decision to bind Bodine over for trial came after just more than a day of testimony about Bodine's allegedly abusive relationships with Evan and his mother as well as a former girlfriend and his own daughter.
Bodine and Miller each remain in the Sedgwick County Jail in lieu of $525,000 bond.
"A cracker a day"
The bulk of Miller's testimony about Evan's abuse and death came Monday afternoon. But she also spoke about it from the witness stand Tuesday morning, including saying that:
▪ Before Evan turned 3, Bodine would spank the boy on the diaper but nothing Miller thought was extreme. But the violence against Evan escalated in March during the week of Evan's birthday. She also abused Evan, she testified.
▪ She think Evan's illness in the days before his death was possibly caused by him being forced to eat salt. Evan had been sick for three days, kept vomiting and couldn't keep food or drink down. She said Bodine had mentioned feeding Evan "a bunch of salt or something like that" but that she'd not actually seen him give any to her son.
"The morning that I woke up and Stephen had told me that he was sick of Evan, and that he (Evan) was in his room puking on himself and for the next two days he wasn't able to eat anything or keep anything down, I recall Stephen telling me something about salt. And I started wondering if that’s not what started Evan being sick," she testified.
"He said if you give them (children) just enough, it won't kill them, but it will make them sick." In earlier testimony she said Evan acted like something was caught in his throat or mouth.
▪ Withholding food from Evan became a punishment when he couldn't follow the household rules Bodine set. "Evan would have to earn his meals. It got to the point where Stephen would be like as long as he has like a cracker a day and a little bit of water, he will be he will be fine," Miller testified. She added that when "I could get Evan to obey Stephen’s rules, then we, all three of us, would sit at the table and eat dinner. And Evan would get breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
▪ She felt overwhelmed raising Evan, and that she and Bodine would argue about whether Evan should be allowed to visit with his biological father, Carlo Brewer.
▪ She didn't agree with the physical punishment of her son but participated in it anyway. One of the things he was disciplined for was not saying "Hello, Daddy" to Bodine in a tone Bodine liked.
▪ She was high on drugs in the days following Evan's death and says she experienced blackouts. It was during that time that she and Bodine bought bags of cement and other materials to build the concrete structure that Evan's body was found in. The structure was so large and heavy that law enforcement used a forklift and flat-bed tow truck to haul it out and away from the house.
Miller claimed that she didn't know Bodine was doing with the supplies after Evan died.
"But you did know what he was doing because the concrete (in the structure) wasn't filled up high enough" to cover the body, Cotton pushed in court.
"Correct," she replied.