Lucas Hernandez was on the state child protection system’s radar off and on for most of his life.
When Lucas was 7 months old, when he was 2 years old and when he was 4, the Kansas Department for Children and Families received allegations that he was being abused, neglected or lacking supervision, according to a timeline The Eagle received from the agency Friday. The timeline lists the DCF's periodic involvement with Lucas.
The state agency received more allegations when the Wichita prekindergarten student was 5. But by then, Lucas was dead, his body hidden in a culvert north of Wichita.
The DCF did not receive a report from Beech Elementary School or the school district about the nine bruises and abrasions documented by a school nurse, according to the timeline. The nurse noticed the bruises — across his face and other parts of his body — about a month before Lucas disappeared. The Wichita school district said that it followed the law involving Lucas but won’t say whether it reported any concerns about Lucas to the DCF or Wichita police.
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School employees are among the so-called mandatory reporters required by law to report to DCF or law enforcement any suspected abuse or neglect. According to state law, “When any mandated reporter has reason to suspect that a person has been injured as a result of physical, mental or emotional abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse, the person shall report the matter promptly to DCF and/or law enforcement.”
Before Lucas disappeared, the DCF received seven reports of suspected abuse, neglect or lack of supervision involving him, said DCF spokeswoman Taylor Forrest.
The state agency found the allegations “unsubstantiated,” meaning "the alleged perpetrator’s actions or inactions do not meet the abuse and/or neglect definitions.”
Once, however, a law enforcement agency had enough concern to temporarily remove Lucas from his home. That was when he was 7 months old. He was returned to his father by the time he was 1 year old.
The only report of suspected physical abuse was in May 2017, Forrest noted.
Lucas was reported missing Feb. 17. His main caregiver — his father’s live-in girlfriend, Emily Glass — told Wichita police that Lucas was gone when she woke from a nap that Saturday evening. A little more than three months later, Glass led a private investigator to Lucas' body under a rural bridge. What happened to Lucas may never be known. An autopsy couldn’t show how he died. Two weeks after Glass led the private detective to Lucas’ body, she shot herself, according to an autopsy.
The case has drawn national attention because Lucas was missing for so long and because of the mysterious circumstances of his death.
Forrest, the DCF spokeswoman, said the agency couldn’t provide more information or records about Lucas than the timeline it released Friday, because it hasn’t received any official finding that the child died from abuse or neglect.
Injuries seen at school
The timeline gives the most detailed description so far of the child protection system’s investigation of Lucas over the years.
By May 16, 2017 — nine months before Lucas disappeared — the DCF assigned a report of physical abuse of Lucas in which "the alleged perpetrator is Emily Glass or unknown,” the timeline says.
Lucas was with Glass while his father worked out of town for weeks at a time.
One of the last opportunities for the child protection system to intervene for Lucas came in January, not quite a month before he died.
Based on the timeline provided Friday, it doesn’t appear that the DCF received any report of suspected abuse after Lucas’ school nurse documented nine bruises or abrasions on him on Jan. 22. According to a court document The Eagle previously reported, Lucas and Glass both said he fell off monkey bars. The family later gave the school a note from a nonprofit medical clinic saying the injuries were consistent with a fall.
Child abuse injury experts say that multiple facial bruises alone are suspicious.
In the days after Lucas was reported missing, the school nurse told an investigator that his injuries “looked like he had been in a fight,” according to the court document. The quote from the nurse was part of a prosecutor’s child-in-need-of-care petition filed on behalf of Glass’ 1-year-old daughter soon after Lucas was missing.
The Eagle found no indication from available 911 records kept by the county or reports kept by Wichita police that officers responded to any concerns about Lucas at his school from Jan. 22 — when he showed up with the bruises — to Feb. 9. That was the last day he was at school. Glass reported him missing eight days later.
The Police Department spokesman didn't return phone calls or emails Friday or Saturday to determine whether the school contacted police after Lucas showed up with the bruises.
Asked whether the school reported any concerns about Lucas, school district spokeswoman Susan Arensman wouldn’t say whether the DCF or police were contacted.
"Bottom line, because of federal laws, we cannot share more information,” Arensman said. “But I will say that we followed the law, and if you are to draw assumptions through some phone records, that would be incorrect ... We can’t share more, but we did follow the law and procedures that Kansas and state law has set in place.”
The DCF timeline begins on July 22, 2013, when Lucas was 7 months old: The agency assigned for investigation allegations of medical and physical neglect and lack of supervision. The finding: "All allegations unsubstantiated.”
Aug. 1, 2013: Allegations of Lucas being "without parental control” were not assigned “because the concern was addressed in the July 22, 2013 event.” The timeline DCF provided Friday said that it "continued attempts to work with Lucas’ mother, Jamie Taylor, to establish family preservation services.”
Aug. 12, 2013: “DCF did not assign allegations of Lucas being "without parental control" because DCF and law enforcement assessed under the open July 22, 2013 event.”
"Law enforcement put Lucas in police protective custody, and DCF requested filing of a Child in Need of Care Petition and custody of Lucas. Lucas was placed in out of home care. Lucas’ father, Jonathan Hernandez successfully reintegrated Lucas into his home December 2013, with the court case closing May 2014.”
Feb. 14, 2015: "DCF assigned a report of without parental control regarding Jonathan Hernandez,” the father. “DCF unsubstantiated the report and Jonathan Hernandez stated he is aware of available services.”
May 16, 2017: DCF assigned a report of physical abuse. “The alleged perpetrator is Emily Glass or unknown. DCF unsubstantiated physical abuse.” That was nine months before Glass reported Lucas missing.
Nov. 8, 2017: "DCF did not assign a report of physical abuse of Lucas because allegations were reported and assessed by New Mexico authorities and there were no new allegations. New Mexico determined the allegations unfounded.” Lucas had relatives in New Mexico, and he, his father and Glass had visited there.
And finally, on Feb. 17, 2018: DCF assigned a report that Lucas was "without parental control” after he was reported missing.