Crime & Courts

State says protective custody should have been considered for Wichita baby who died

Kyle L. Kempton and Christy L. Rollings both were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in connection with their baby’s death.
Kyle L. Kempton and Christy L. Rollings both were charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in connection with their baby’s death. Sedgwick County Jail

The state child protection agency said Friday that Wichita police should have considered taking 2-month-old twins into protective custody before one of them died.

In the Wichita area, when police put children into protective custody, it often means taking them initially to the Wichita Children’s Home. From there, they can go to a foster home or relative while the child protection system determines an eventual placement.

Instead, police put the infants with a relative on Tuesday afternoon after finding that their parents were intoxicated at the West Kellogg motel where the family stayed. The next afternoon, the relative returned the babies to the parents. One of the twins was found dead at the motel Thursday morning, and the parents have been arrested in what police are treating as a case of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.

When police notified the state agency of the endangerment case by fax Tuesday evening and again Wednesday morning, police didn’t flag it as a priority for the agency to investigate, said Taylor Forrest, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

The Eagle posed these questions to DCF on Friday and got these answers:

Q: Should the children have been placed in police protective custody and taken to the Wichita Children’s Home after the initial incident on Tuesday?

A: In retrospect it certainly seems that Police Protective Custody (PPC) should have been considered. With that being said, these are difficult situations that line staff and law enforcement are making on a daily basis, whether to separate families or keep them together.

Q: Was DCF notified on Tuesday of the child endangerment case, and when, and how, and by whom?

A: The Wichita Police Department faxed a report to the Kansas Protection Report Center (KPRC) late Tuesday evening, and a duplicate report Wednesday morning.

Q: What information was provided?

A: Unable to provide due to confidentiality.

Q: Did DCF have any indication that it was a priority?

A: DCF never received any form of notification that indicated that this report was a priority or an emergent situation.

Q: Does DCF believe this was handled under current protocol?

A: The fax that DCF received came in as a regular report, with no indication that it was a priority, which is handled in normal progression of other intakes received. We monitor and are constantly vigilant in looking for priority flagged reports, and this report was not marked as such.

In a statement responding to the DCF comments, police spokesman Officer Charley Davidson said that during the initial call Tuesday, “the children appeared to be in good physical condition, cared for and fed. Also, there was no reported physical abuse. The officers were able to locate a responsible family member who wanted the children. ... DCF was notified before the officers cleared the call so they could follow-up on the long term care for the children.”

Davidson said the officers focused on the “immediate safety concerns of children ... by removing the twin boys from the environment they were in and placing them with a responsible family member.”

The Wichita Police Department discusses Friday the arrest of the parents of a 2-month-old baby boy who was pronounced dead at a west-side motel the day before. (Aug. 31, 2018)

Police gave this account earlier Friday:

Around 6 a.m. Thursday, one of the 2-month-old twins was found dead in a motel bed beside his father, Kyle L. Kempton. The other boy was then placed in police protective custody.

Both parents were arrested and booked into Sedgwick County Jail. Police presented their case to prosecutors Friday. If charges are filed, it will be Tuesday afternoon at the earliest, the District Attorney’s Office said.

The family had been living at the Scotsman Inn for a week.

Tuesday afternoon, police were called to the motel, near Kellogg and Dugan, to check on the the children. The parents — Kempton and Christy Rollings — were intoxicated, according to police.

Police determined that the children should be removed from the parents at that time, Officer Charley Davidson said. They then gave the twins to a “responsible family member” that afternoon.

Police made a child neglect case on that incident, Davidson said.

Wichita police faxed information about the initial child endangerment case to DCF on Tuesday evening, then followed up early Wednesday morning to make sure the agency got the fax, Davidson said. The state agency helps to investigate child abuse and assesses whether children are safe and provides services to families.

On Wednesday, the relative returned the children to the parents, Davidson said.

Davidson didn’t answer questions about whether police told the relative not to give the children back to their parents.

“I know that the officers did make sure that the situation was safe for the children to be placed with this family member” and that the relative was responsible, he added.

Police have different options in such cases, he said, and one option is to give children to a family member instead of taking them to the Wichita Children’s Home, to lessen the impact on the family.

Police say they are awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death.

Kempton was a licensed chiropractor in Wichita from July 2016 to Jan. 31 of this year. According to state records, his license was canceled on Feb. 1 after he failed to renew. His professional website indicates a specialty in chiropractic care for pregnant women and children.

A friend of Rollings’, Herm Gallegos, told The Eagle on Friday that Rollings told him in July that she and her twins’ father met in inpatient care for substance abuse.

At the time, Gallegos said, Rollings sounded as if she was doing well in efforts to be sober. Rollings told him she was working as a waitress in south Wichita.

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