Crime & Courts

Tony's mom said she 'lost it,' hit him. Police give details in death of 2-year-old

Pallbearers carry the casket of 2-year-old Anthony "Tony" Bunn out of St. Joseph Catholic Church after his funeral May 17.  He would have turned 3 on July 23.
Pallbearers carry the casket of 2-year-old Anthony "Tony" Bunn out of St. Joseph Catholic Church after his funeral May 17. He would have turned 3 on July 23.

Tony Bunn’s mother told police that before the 2-year-old stopped breathing on the morning of May 4, she "lost it" and hit Tony on his cheek with her open hand, says a Wichita police affidavit released Wednesday.

The mother, 22-year-old Elizabeth Woolheater, said her son wouldn't swallow his food, and she hit him again, the affidavit says. Then her boyfriend, 25-year-old Lucas Diel, hit him — four or five times, the affidavit says.

Shortly after that, Diel "yelled for her help and sounded panicked," according to the mother's account.

When she went to check, she told police, Tony was "bleeding from his face, had a broken front tooth, a cut or tear on his lip that appeared as if a tooth went through his lip, and his eyes were swollen shut," the document says.

Woolheater said her son was gasping and didn't appear to be breathing. His body was "limp, pale, and he was not responsive."

Tony died two days later at a Wichita hospital. The mother and her boyfriend have been charged with first-degree murder. The police affidavit is the legal justification for the arrest of Woolheater and Diel.

The affidavit gives this account: The incident occurred at 7 a.m. May 4, and police responded at about 7:43 a.m. By then, Tony was not breathing and firefighters were trying to save him.

One firefighter noticed that Tony had a missing tooth and “unexplained bruising to his face” before being taken to a hospital.

Woolheater said Tony had returned from a visit with his grandmother at about 7 p.m. the night before, May 3. (An attorney for Tony's maternal grandmother says that the "grandmother" referred to in the affidavit is not her client.)

The mother said Diel woke up about 6 a.m. May 4 and gave Tony hotdogs.

After Diel got in the shower, she said, she heard “a bang,” and Diel got out of the shower to check on Tony.

Diel told an officer that he found Tony face down on the bedroom floor.

The mother also said she found the 2-year-old face down on the bedroom floor. She said she first called Diel’s mother, who is a registered nurse. Woolheater said Diel’s mother told her to call 911.

Diel’s mother told the officer that she found Tony in the bathtub. He was unresponsive.

Diel’s mother said no one had called 911 to that point, and a call was made. She started CPR on the boy.

Her son told her that Tony “would not eat his hotdogs so he had to spank him,” the affidavit says.

Police saw bloody towels in the bathroom, and Diel said Tony “had fallen out of the bed and got a nose bleed,” the document says.

Police noticed a marijuana odor in the house in the 800 block of North Woodrow and saw a glass bong, used to smoke marijuana, in a bedroom closet. A kitchen table had six to eight marijuana plants.

That morning, Woolheater later told a detective, Tony had bruising on his face and head from a previous incident and older bruising on his buttocks. But she said she didn’t see any new injuries.

Woolheater said her 2-year-old had the hotdog pieces in his mouth but wouldn’t swallow.

That’s when “Elizabeth said she ‘lost it’ and hit Tony on his cheek with her open hand while he was in bed.” She said she hit him again the same way as he held the food in his mouth.

After she went to the bathroom, she said she heard Diel spanking or striking the boy.

After Tony seemed to stop breathing, she said, she held his nose closed and breathed into his mouth as Diel used a hand to do chest compressions.

A detective said Diel had several small cuts near the knuckles of his right hand.

Diel said he hurt his hand while working at a fast-food restaurant the week before, the affidavit says. But a manager at the restaurant said Diel hadn’t worked there since January.

“Lucas could not explain” how Tony was injured, it says.

Among the 2-year-old's injuries or medical condition: He was malnourished, “had extensive trauma to the head and face, yellow and green bruising over the large area of the mid forehead,” a “broken nose that was healing on one side and the other side was fractured ... he had a missing tooth and one tooth that was loose.”

His eyes were swollen shut, with blue and red bruising on his eyelids.

Bruising on his back — in different stages of healing — extended along the spine.

He had suffered bruising on his buttocks, “with small linear lacerations on the left buttock.”

He had a fractured rib.

He had a healing fracture on his left arm.

After he arrived at the hospital, his brain swelled to the point that he suffered brain death.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle