The tragic and horrifying story of Adrian Jones, the 7-year old boy whose father and stepmother tortured and starved him before feeding his body to hungry pigs, has outraged countless readers of news reports who can’t understand how no one stepped in to help as the child suffered unthinkable torture and abuse for at least nine months before he died.
Crime Online spoke to Jessica McMaster, a reporter at 41 Action News who recently published a three-part-series about Adrian’s unimaginable ordeal in Kansas City, Kansas; illustrated with photos and video screenshots of the shocking abuse found on his stepmother’s computer after her arrest.
McMaster shed light on one of the most incredulous parts of this tragic story: Adrian’s stepmother, Heather Jones, systematically documented Adrian’s torture and abuse in photos and video. And it doesn’t look like she even tried to hide it: After Jones was arrested in late 2015, she gave her landlord Jen Hoevers access to her iCloud account, asking the property owner to go into her computer and save photos of her children.
Nothing could have prepared Hoevers for what she found.
McMaster explained that, at the time, Hoevers believed Heather’s husband and Adrian’s biological father Michael Jones was the primary perpetrator of the abuse and murder, and Heather was more “guilty by association” as McMaster put it — perhaps a victim of abuse herself.
So why would the stepmother put such clear evidence of the torture she inflicted on the little boy into someone else’s hands?
“I think in Heather’s distorted delusional mind that exonerated her, and put the blame on Michael,” McMaster said.
The reporter pointed out that both Heather and Michael were careful to stay out of the shot most anytime they took photos or videos of the torturous punishments they inflicted on Adrian — like strapping him, blindfolded, to an inversion table, or forcing the emaciated child to stand up to his neck in filthy pool water overnight. There is, however, one video, which Action 41 did not publish, in which Heather can reportedly be heard taunting her son as he is left out in the cold.
McMaster said that Heather Jones left notes indicating she and her husband though there there was something wrong with Adrian, and that the parents are believed to have taken him to mental hospitals on more than one occasion. Adrian’s grandmother, Judy Conway, told 41 Action News that Adrian was a normal, happy, healthy boy when he went to live with his father and his stepmother in 2012.
Outside of the photos and videos of the abuse, little is known about how Adrian became the target of his custodial parents’ cruelty and rage. He lived with six sisters at the time, who were not abused, and are now in foster care.
McMaster said that one of the most frustrating elements of reporting this heartbreaking the story was the lack of cooperation from the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DFC), which has refused to release any files related to Adrian’s case — making it impossible to verify numerous reports from sources who told McMaster they contacted child services.
Adrian’s grandmother told 41 Action News that she had contacted DFC twice since she last saw Adrian in 2012. McMaster says that Conway — the boy’s maternal grandmother — had no proof or even a suggestion of physical abuse, but was concerned and frustrated that Michael and Heather would not give her access to her grandchildren. And much of the time, she would not have known where to find them, as the parents and their homeschooled children moved around a lot.
“When they moved to this home they would not tell [Conway] where they lived,” McMaster said. “Probably because they knew what they were going to do.”
McMaster says that in Kansas, there is little supervision for families who choose to homeschool their children.
“You have to register your school and that’s it,” she said. “There’s no follow up.”
And because the family’s home was fairly isolated, without any neighbors in close proximity, it was possible for them to conceal what they were doing to the child.
“You wouldn’t hear his cries,” McMaster said.
The little boy wasn’t discovered until late 2015, when police were summoned to the house on a domestic violence call, according to 41 Action News. While at the home, a woman (believed to be Heather) told the police they would find a child’s body if they searched the property. Officers discovered Adrian’s remains in a livestock pen.
According to records obtained by the news station, McMaster said, the police, too, had no inkling what was going on. While friends and family may have tried to call DCF about their suspicions, no one called the police. And police had only been called to the home where Adrian died one time prior to the day of the grisly discovery, for what McMaster said was a minor incident involving one of the children getting accidentally stuck.
“The only people who didn’t fail this boy was the Kansas City, Kansas, police department,” McMaster said, adding that she knows multiple police officers who have been permanently scarred by what happened to the little boy, and devastated that they didn’t know he desperately needed help until it was too late.
She said one has told her: “We would have shown up, and we would have taken him out of the home.”
Photo: Family handout