Unsealed records from the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) show multiple allegations of abuse against Heather Jones, the stepmother of Adrian Jones who, along with Adrian’s father Michael, pleaded guilty to murdering the child.
The 7-year-old boy starved to death in 2015 before his father fed his body to pigs. Prior to his death, Adrian suffered extreme abuse and torture, including being forced to stand outside in freezing temperatures and handcuffed to an inversion table. Images from in-home surveillance cameras showed that the little boy was emaciated shortly before he died, while he was confined naked to a shower stall in the home.
The Kansas City Star obtained 2,000 pages of case file records, which the newspaper had been seeking since Adrian was found dead in November 2015. The records show multiple hotline calls made to the agency by witnesses who suspected abuse in the home.
Many of the claims were determined to be either old or unsubstantiated, including an allegation that Michael and Heather Jones were not adequately feeding their children, and that there were guns lying around in the home.
The Jones’s reportedly moved frequently from Kansas to Missouri and back between the years of 2011 and 2015, complicating the agencies’ efforts to monitor them.
The records obtained by the newspaper show that twice in 2013, a hotline caller reported that Adrian had been eating out of trash can and acting out. The Kansas-based caseworker found at the time that the family was living in Missouri, and referred the incident to the state agency there.
As Crime Online previously reported, the Kansas City Star obtained case files from the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services earlier this month. Those records showed that Adrian himself verbally reported that his father had severely beaten him, and that his parents couldn’t feed him.
The caseworker at the time could not find any physical evidence of abuse, but arranged an intervention with the family to monitor the situation. Shortly after, the parents stopped cooperating and moved back to Kansas.
A secretary for the DCF told the Kansas City Star that the family’s constant movements may have been intentional, in order to avoid consistent monitoring.
“As the records reveal, DCF staff followed the family, as Michael and Heather Jones worked constantly to evade our intervention,” Phyllis Gilmore told the newpaper. “Even when the Jones family moved to Missouri and was no longer within our jurisdiction, our social workers continued to make efforts to communicate with Missouri officials to ensure the family was provided with services and assessed.
“ Sadly, despite our efforts, this tragedy unfolded — the very worst possible outcome.”
Gilmore also addressed an apparent inconsistency between an earlier statement made to the newspaper and the timeline revealed in the DCF records.
Earlier this month, Gilmore reportedly told the Kansas City Star that the agency’s last contact with Adrian was in February 2012. But the DCF records show that the agency responded to a hotline call in December of that year.
A DCF spokesperson explained that the December 2012 visit did not involve direct contact with Adrian.
“The earlier date provided related to the last physical contact with Adrian,” Theresa Freed told the Kansas City Star. “The December 2012 date did not involve Adrian, as he did not reside at the residence investigated. We cannot discuss other children in the file.”
The new information appears to be the first public indication that any of the other children in the home were abused. Adrian had been placed in the care of his father and stepmother along with his six sisters after the children were removed from their biological mother’s home, and earlier reports indicated the Adrian had been the sole target of his parents’s abuse.
Heather and Michael Jones are believed to have temporarily separated at some point in the years before Adrian’s death. Still, the precise timeline of where Adrian was living and with whom remains somewhat unclear.
Rep. Louis Ruiz, a Kansas City Democrat, was critical of the way the agency handled Adrian’s case.
“Why did the tragedy happen? It didn’t happen overnight,” he said to the Kansas City Star.
Additional news outlets have since obtained the DCF case files. But rather than submit them electronically, the agency has provided hard copies of the 2,000-page report, in at least one case charging the media outlet 25 cents per page.
Photo: Family handout