Crime & Courts

Johnson County couple accused of starving, beating 5-year-old boy

A Shawnee couple is charged with child abuse and endangerment after a 5-year-old was brought to Children’s Mercy Hospital bruised and malnourished from starvation, according to Johnson County prosecutors.

Elizabeth Francis, 28, allegedly told police that she and her boyfriend John Carter, 35, were withholding food from the child and giving him only the “bare minimum,” according to the charges.

When the child arrived at Children’s Mercy Hospital in December 2018 he weighed 28 pounds, according to court documents. That is the average weight of a 2-year-old.

The child was 10 pounds lighter than he had been when he was at the hospital in September.

The child was taken into custody by police.

Carter denied abusing or starving the child, but when detectives spoke to Francis she allegedly told them that Carter abused her and the child, and she admitted that the couple had withheld food.

In a forensic interview, the child allegedly said Francis would hit him, pull his hair, put him in a cold bath and didn’t feed him. He said an injury to his bowel was caused by Francis as well.

The couple is scheduled to appear in court at 11:30 Thursday morning.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.