Mother of child who died makes her first appearance
Elizabeth Woolheater, 22, and her boyfriend, Lucas Diel, 25, were charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday in the death of Woolheater's 2-year-old son, Tony Bunn.
Woolheater and Diel are being held in the Sedgwick County Jail on $250,000 bond each, and Judge Faith Maughan ordered that they have no contact with each other, witnesses or anyone under 18. The couple appeared separately in court through a camera and TV.
In his court appearance, Diel asked if he could speak with his mother. The judge told him he could not if she was on the witness list, which included detectives, doctors and six people identified only by their initials.
"We're just interested in the justice happening for Tony," said Zak Woolheater, Tony's maternal grandfather, after his daughter and her boyfriend were charged.
Wichita police were first sent to a Riverside home in the 800 block of North Woodrow at around 7:45 a.m. Friday, where officers found the boy not breathing.
The child was taken to a hospital in critical condition with severe trauma to his head and face. Police said at the time that the boy's mother and boyfriend provided no explanation for the injuries, and they were arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and endangering a child.
The boy died from his injuries on Sunday.
"Tony was one of the more phenomenal kids you'll ever see," Zak Woolheater said. "He was always happy, he always had a joke or smile."
Diel and Woolheater wrote in court documents made public on Wednesday that they have an 8-month-old son together. A police spokesman said the boy is with family.
Zak Woolheater said he is seeking custody of another grandchild.
Diel and Woolheater are both unemployed, according to court documents. They both previously worked at the same fast-food restaurant near 21st and Amidon, and Diel has also recently worked at another restaurant near Maple and Ridge.
Seven months before Tony died, police had investigated whether he was being abused. An attorney representing his maternal grandparents said in court documents filed over the weekend that the child protection system failed Tony.
When asked Wednesday about the October 2017 incident, Zak Woolheater said the family will "let the courts take care of all of this."
"The community is supporting us 100 percent, I've seen," Zak Woolheater said. "The outpouring of love for Tony is unbelievable."
"We are working on getting a memorial set up ... just to honor Tony and the other children that have just not made it because somebody didn't do enough, somebody didn't follow procedure," he said.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families announced Tuesday that two employees had been fired and the work performance of others in the Wichita region was under investigation.
Zak Woolheater said he has not been in contact with DCF about any personnel changes.
Diel and Woolheater are scheduled to appear again in court May 23. They were granted court-appointed attorneys.