Crime & Courts

State worker saw Evan twice before he died. She believed mom’s story explaining abuse

A Department for Children and Families social worker who investigated two of the abuse reports made about 3-year-old Evan Brewer saw the boy twice in the months before he died — once when his mother took him to see her at her office in Wichita and once when she made an unannounced visit to his home.

But his condition during the visits didn’t cause enough concern to substantiate the abuse alleged.

Kena Battle testified Wednesday at Stephen Bodine’s murder and child abuse trial that when she saw Evan on March 24, 2017, at her office that he had nose and facial injuries consistent with two abuse reports that DCF received about him a few days before.

Battle said when she asked Evan what happened, he told her “mommy hurt him.”

But his mother, Miranda Miller, explained away the injuries with a story about how Evan had tried to ride his bike on a staircase at their home and tripped.

Battle said when she asked Miller to have a doctor examine Evan, Miller told her the injury “was fine” and pushed the boy’s nose back and forth in front of her.

Evan didn’t cringe or appear to be in pain, Battle testified, so she took Miller’s word.

“I’m not a medical doctor,” Battle said from the witness stand.

Eleven days later on April 5 when she made an unannounced visit to the rental house at 2037 S. Vine where Evan lived, she saw both Evan and Miller and was allowed inside of the home. During that visit, Miller told Battle that Bodine, her boyfriend, didn’t live with them.

Battle said in court that the living arrangements mattered because some of the abuse reports named Bodine as Evan’s suspected abuser.

But, Battle said, she took Miller at her word and didn’t inspect the house for signs that a man was staying there.

She closed the report, listing the abuse allegations as unsubstantiated at that time, she testified.

That was the last time she saw Evan alive.

When Battle went to the home again in May after receiving additional abuse reports — including one that said Bodine had bragged about choking Evan and was brainwashing Miller — no one answered the door.

The reports that prompted the March and April visits with Battle were among at least eight DCF received concerning Evan in the 13 months before he died and his body was buried in a concrete tomb inside the house in May 2017. Not all of them were sent to a social worker for investigation because they either didn’t rise to a level DCF considered abuse or neglect or they were similar to other reports about Evan received at about the same time, Battle testified Wednesday.

Battle no longer works for DCF.

State officials have admitted that DCF made mistakes in handling Evan’s case.

Some of the abuse reports were made by Evan’s biological father, Carlo Brewer, who testified Wednesday that his own attempts to see Evan were refused by Miller and Bodine between March 2017 and Sept. 2, 2017, when the boy’s body was found.

Bodine is charged with first-degree murder, child abuse, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated child endangerment in connection with Evan’s death and at least two months of torture the boy endured.

His trial resumes Thursday.

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Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker