“My daddy keeps hitting me in the head and punches me in the stomach and my mom keeps pulling on my ears and it really hurts. Mommy and Daddy lock me in my room by myself. Mommy and Daddy can’t feed me.”
-Adrian Jones (at the time of that statement he was 5 years old)
It was the 25th of November 2015. A Wednesday. Heather Jones called police to report a domestic disturbance incident. She claimed that her husband tried to shoot her. Police did not know it then but they were about to discover one of the most horrific child abuse cases they had ever encountered.
When police arrived at the house in Kansas City, Kansas, United States, Heather told them that if they looked around the property they would find the remains of a boy. The house was filthy. There were bullet holes in the walls and trash thrown all over the house. There were dead mice, rat poison, syringes and pornography videos on the floor and on the counter tops.
When police searched the home and the area outside, they found the partial remains of seven year old Adrian Jones. The partial remains were found in a livestock pig pen in the yard near a barn.
Heather was married to Michael Jones and they lived with seven children who ranged in age from just under two years old to ten years old. One of the children was Adrian Jones. Adrian was Michael's biological son and Heather was his stepmother. For the first couple of years of his life, Adrian lived with his biological mother, Dainna Pearce, in Lawrence in Kansas but when he was found at home unsupervised, he was removed from his mother’s care by the Kansas Department for Children and Families and placed in the custody of his father.
Adrian Jones and his mother Dainna
Adrian had not been seen by his extended family for a number of months and had no interaction with the outside world. All of the children were homeschooled.
When Michael and Heather were arrested, Heather asked her landlord Jen Hoevers to save images of her children from her Apple iCloud account. Jen discovered horrific images when she accessed Heather's iCloud.
The images were of Adrian and showed that before his death, he was abused in a prolonged, sustained and barbaric manner. The reality is that Adrian suffered abuse for most of his life but in the last nine months before his death, the abuse had escalated to a degree that an adult would find impossible to cope with emotionally, mentally and physically. Yet Adrian did everything he could to fight for his life. He tried to escape. He tried to get help. He tried to eat. He tried to live.
Jen gave the images to police. The images found on the iCloud showed how over a matter of months Adrian's health had deteriorated. He went from a healthy little boy to an emaciated one, with rotten teeth and sunken eyes. The abuse, through the images and videos that were stored in the iCloud, provided detailed evidence of the torture that Adrian suffered.
Police discovered that throughout the home, there were several cameras. There was a camera in every room and they documented some of the abuse Adrian endured.
The investigation into Adrian's life and death revealed that he endured horrific abuse at the hands of both Heather and Michael. In his short life, he was subjected to cruel, barbaric and terrifying abuse.The images and videos showed that Adrian had been tortured, was repeatedly beaten and starved by both Michael and Heather.
Adrian was punished if he tried to eat food. The abuse included Adrian being forced to stand alone for hours at a time with his hands in the air and forced to stand in stress positions. A video was found which showed Adrian standing outside one day in the month of January. He was visibly shivering and was wearing a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. He couldn't move as he was shackled. There were other videos which also showed his hands and feet handcuffed when he was forced to remain outside.
Other forms of abuse involved Adrian strapped to a table and blindfolded. When Adrian was allowed to stand, if he wasn't shackled, Heather and Michael attached cutting boards to his tiny body to prevent him from being able to sit. There was a makeshift cell in the house. Images found on Heather's iCloud showed Adrian with a bloody and bruised mouth and his hands swollen. He had tried to bite his way through the makeshift cell in a bid to be free.
There was a video of Adrian being hit in the face with a broomstick. That broomstick was used several times to beat him.
In another video, Adrian was forced to eat from a bowl with his mouth. Heather told the other children that Adrian was eating a bowl of applesauce that had bugs and dirt in it. Other images showed him tied up with a plate of food in front of him and a bar of soap in his mouth so that he could not eat the food. There were alarms on the presses so that if Adrian ever tried to get food, Heather and Michael would be notified and would prevent him from eating.
He was forced to stand in neck deep water in the filthy and freezing swimming pool overnight.
Heather's Facebook account also revealed more details of Adrian's abuse. She spoke about tasing him and that was consistent with some of the marks that were seen on Adrian's body in different images. The shocks would sometimes last a full twenty seconds. She spoke on Facebook about wanting to kill Adrian and on Christmas Day in 2014, she made a reference to wanting to simulate an episode of “The Walking Dead” in which a character shoots a child in the back of the head.
They no longer called him Adrian and instead referred to him as the boy. His ankles were bent out of shape due to the beatings and restraints.
Adrian's health had deteriorated so badly that he did not have the strength to stand up or lean against a wall. In the last days of his life, he was confined to a white tiled shower stall, stripped naked and strapped to a chair and that was where he was left to die. Police believed he was left in the shower stall for two weeks after he died. One of Adrian's siblings told police that he heard Adrian screaming through a vent:
“I’m going to die.”
The child said they heard Heather say:
“suck it up.”
After his death, Heather and Michael bought pigs and it was claimed that they did not feed the pigs for a period of time. They threw Adrian's body into the pen. That was where police discovered partial remains.
Heather Jones and Michael Jones were charged with first degree murder.
The Prosecutor said that Adrian's death was one of the most heinous crimes they had ever seen in 27 years as a Prosecutor. It was the Prosecution's case that Adrian had essentially starved to death and then his body was fed to the pigs.
Sheryl Lidtke, the Chief Deputy District Attorney, described Adrian as an active and curious boy who was full of life before his father and stepmother subjected him to physical, emotional and mental abuse and starved him to death.
They both pleaded guilty to first degree murder and were sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Heather was also sentenced to five years and eight months in prison for two counts of child abuse.
At Heather's sentencing hearing, Heather told the Court that she felt helpless to protect Adrian from her abusive husband:
"I can't go back now but I truly, from the bottom of my heart, am sorry I wasn't strong enough to protect him. I wish I could take it back. "
The investigation into Adrian's murder revealed that it wasn't just Heather and Michael that let Adrian down in his short life. Michael and Heather moved with the children a number of times and lived in Missouri and Kansas.
Records in both Missouri and Kansas revealed several reports and calls were made that informed social service and child welfare agencies of the abuse Adrian suffered.
When Adrian was removed from his biological mother's home and given to Michael, Kansas child welfare workers were notified of issues just three months later. Allegations were made that Michael had guns in the house and that Heather was high on drugs. Other reports made included calls notifying authorities that Adrian was being beaten and choked and had been spanked to the point where his buttocks were bleeding.
Adrian also told a case worker that he had to do push ups all day long.
In 2014, Adrian spent a few months in a residential treatment center. He went there after he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Heather and Michael were allowed have Adrian back provided that they would follow an aftercare plan.
In December 2011, Heather faced accusations in Kansas that she abused another child. The agency found those claims were unsubstantiated but a police officer found that Adrian had a black eye and bruises on his face.
At that time, Heather and Michael had separated. Michael told the social worker that Heather was on drugs. The social worker involved in the case believed that Heather had caused Adrian's injuries so they agreed to let Adrian go back into Michael's care. He signed a safety plan. That meant that Heather could not have any contact with Adrian. But that arrangement did not last long.
Adrian Jones with his mother and siblings
Adrian's maternal grandmother, biological mother and his oldest sister filed a lawsuit alleging social service workers in Kansas and Missouri knew Adrian was being tortured and could have prevented his death.
The lawsuit seeks $25 million in punitive damages.
In 2017, Kansas Rep. Louis Ruiz introduced Adrian's Law. If the bill is signed into law, it would strengthen child abuse reporting laws. There would be a requirement that the Kansas Department for Children and Families would have to physically view a child who's at risk for abuse when visiting the home. They cannot visit the home and simply leave if there is no answer. The child would need to be seen by them.
In Adrian's case, it is clear he should have been removed from the home a long time before his death. Notwithstanding the multiple reports and several calls that were made about the abuse he suffered, he expressly and directly told them he was being physically abused.
It is vital, that in 2020 and the years that will follow, no child's pleas, like the pleas of Adrian Jones will be ignored. Adrian's Law is just one step in the process but every single member of society has a duty to report any sign of child abuse or child neglect. The consequences of not reporting abuse is just too great.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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