Crime & Courts

Stephen Bodine sentenced in murder of 3-year-old Evan Brewer

Stephen Bodine — the man convicted of killing 3-year-old Evan Brewer and encasing the boy’s body in concrete to hide the death — will be incarcerated for at least 109 1/2 years, a Sedgwick County judge ruled Monday.

“Your acts were disgusting and cowardly and monstrous,” Judge Steve Ternes said before handing down the sentence, which puts 41-year-old Bodine in prison for the rest of his natural life.

Ternes added that Evan’s death and horrific abuse — which included being forced to stand naked in chains for hours with a belt around his neck — could have been avoided if Bodine or his girlfriend, Evan’s mother, would have made one phone call to family or authorities, asking for someone else to care for the boy.

Instead, Bodine and Miranda Miller repeatedly refused to let Evan’s father see or talk to him in the final weeks of his life.

Prosecutors think Evan died on May 19, 2017, in the south Wichita rental house where he lived with Bodine and his mother. Miller testified in court that Evan had been sick for days back then. He collapsed and couldn’t get up after being beaten and forced to stand against a wall for hours. Bodine slapped him with all of his strength as punishment, according to Miller’s testimony, then hauled the boy into a bathroom to quiet his screams.

When Bodine came out, Evan was wet and unresponsive. Days later, he buried the 3-year-old’s decaying body in concrete and told everyone asking that Evan was away with Miller.

Evan’s paternal family, who was in court daily when Bodine was tried in October, wept silently as the judge announced his decision.

Later, outside of the courtroom, they said they felt justice had been served.

Bodine’s convictions include first-degree felony murder, child abuse, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated child endangerment, aggravated assault and criminal damage to property.

“The outcome of it was the best possible outcome I could think of,” Evan’s father, Carlo Brewer, said about the sentencing. “We don’t have to worry about him (Bodine) getting out and hurting other children and people. This turned into a pretty good day.”

Bodine’s sentence is the maximum he could have received for his convictions under Kansas law — and it’s almost 41 years longer than what prosecutors initially had asked for when Monday’s hearing began.

A last-minute realization by prosecutors that Bodine could be ordered to serve much more time in prison because of the way state law is written prompted them to argue for the longer term. Sedgwick County Deputy District Attorney Justin Edwards suggested to Ternes that ordering the shorter sentence — about 68 years — might be illegal, which would require a later correction by the court.

Bodine’s defense attorney, Casey Cotton, objected, calling prosecutors’ arguments “wholly improper” and not supported by any prior court rulings. He urged Ternes to remember that Evan’s mother, who admitted she was complicit in Evan’s abuse, will receive a “significantly lower” prison sentence than Bodine because of a deal she made with prosecutors.

She agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and other crimes in exchange for testifying truthfully about Bodine’s treatment of Evan. Prosecutors plan to ask that she spend around 27 years in prison when she’s sentenced in January.

Bodine, in handcuffs and ankle shackles, was mostly expressionless during Monday’s hearing, wincing only when Ternes announced his sentence. He turned down a chance to speak on his own behalf.

Evan’s family, meanwhile, spent several minutes talking in court about how Evan’s abuse and death had affected them.

Two of his aunts, Carol and Cheryl Brewer, read aloud a letter that they’d written in Evan’s voice. They said if Evan been able to speak for himself on Monday he’d have talked about how he loved Batman, Ninja Turtles, grapes and eating “cake cakes” — his word for cupcakes — and how suffering months of abuse never killed his spirit.

In his comments to the court, Carlo Brewer said he believed Evan guided Bodine’s jurors to their swift guilty verdicts in October.

“My son was murdered by the worst monsters that many children create with their imaginations,” he said.

“I honestly believe that anyone who could do such horrible acts to a child .... does not deserve the breath of life.”

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.