Excruciating details of child abuse haunt public

Miranda Miller testifies in Sedgwick County Court during a preliminary hearing Monday in the case involving the death of her 3-year-old son, Evan Brewer.
Miranda Miller testifies in Sedgwick County Court during a preliminary hearing Monday in the case involving the death of her 3-year-old son, Evan Brewer. The Wichita Eagle

Parents hear of child-abuse tragedies and want to hug their own children, wondering why troubled parents can’t do the same.

Recent local cases have us reaching for our kids and holding them close.

On Friday, a 13-year-old boy had the courage to go to a police substation to report his mother’s boyfriend had abused him and sexually assaulted younger siblings. The man was arrested on suspicion of rape of a child under 13, child abuse and aggravated indecent liberties with a child.

Five-year-old Lucas Hernandez hasn’t been located two months since his disappearance, and court documents say his stepmother targeted Lucas for abuse as a way of dealing with her anger with Lucas’ father. Emily Glass, 26, is charged with child endangerment of her 1-year-old daughter, who is in protective custody.

Then Monday and Tuesday, testimony in a preliminary hearing showed how 3-year-old Evan Brewer died. Already sick, possibly by being forced to ingest salt, he was struck by his mother and her boyfriend to keep from gagging on force-fed doughnuts. He collapsed after standing for hours in a corner, was “full-strength slapped” by Stephen Bodine, and stopped breathing after Bodine took him into the bathroom, according to testimony. Days later, Evan’s body was encased in concrete.

These cases of abuse and neglect have yet to be decided in court, but they spotlight the need for patient, thoughtful parenting and the services available to help parents — some of whom don’t have the temperament and shouldn’t be parents — discipline their anger and turn to support before things get out of hand.

Prevent Child Abuse America reports 86 percent of adults would be grateful for help with child care, extra services or other support. Many times it’s a matter of overwhelmed parents taking the step of asking for help.

Once abuse begins, it’s up to friends, family and outsiders such as school employees or others close to the child to pay attention. “See something, say something” has become imperative for the safety of all children.

The Lucas Hernandez and Evan Brewer cases were reported to authorities, and the Kansas Department for Children and Families has received criticism for its actions in both. Regardless, these high-profile child abuse cases show it’s happening all around us, and people must continue to look out for a child’s best interest.

Many tried to help Evan Brewer. In the end, his mother admitted she had a part in his death. “For my safety I thought it was best to keep (Bodine) happy,” she testified.

For her safety.

Miranda Miller may be alive because she kept her boyfriend happy. Her son is dead. Evan Brewer deserved millions more hugs.

To report abuse

Call the Kansas Protection Report Center, 800-922-5330

For parent help

Call the Kansas Children’s Service League parent helpline, 800-244-5373