Lawyer: Kansas social workers knew of abuse but failed to protect toddler boy, allegedly murdered by ‘mom’ & boyfriend

After a toddler boy in Wichita, Kansas, died on Sunday, an attorney for the boy’s grandparents filed a lawsuit against the Sedgwick County Department of Children and Families, claiming the agency knew the boy was being abused at home but failed to save him.

The Wichita Eagle reports that 2-year-old Anthony “Tony”  Bunn died from blunt force trauma to the head. Wichita police officers found the little boy unconscious in a home off of North Woodrow at around 7:45 a.m. Friday morning. EMT workers were called in and rushed the little boy to a local hospital, where he passed away on Sunday from his injuries.

Anthony’s mother, 22-year-old Elizabeth Woolheater, and her boyfriend, 25-year-old Lucas Diel, reportedly had no explanations as to why the little boy had so many injuries. They were both arrested and charged with suspicion first-degree murder and child endangerment.

Anthony “Tony” Bunn [Photo: Handout]
Attorney Shayla Johnston, a lawyer representing Tony’s maternal grandparents, filed a lawsuit on their behalf and alleged Sedgwick County DCF knew that the boy was abused while in his mother’s care in October 2017. The toddler lived with his grandparents, Zachary and Nancy Woolheater, shortly after the incident, but 12 days later, the toddler was back in his mother’s care when the DA failed to find sufficient evidence of abuse.

On Monday, DCF released a statement admitting they investigated child abuse allegations in regards to Tony in October 2017. The investigation, according to DCF, was a joint effort with Wichita police.

“We are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy … and staff are reviewing this case to determine whether personnel, policy or procedure changes are necessary to prevent further tragedies from occurring,” the statement read.

Court documents indicate that the boy’s grandparents tried legally to keep him safe but were roadblocked when the agency “failed to follow reasonable protocols expected to secure permanent placement and supervision of the child.”

The case touches home for Johnson. She’s the aunt of 3-year-old Evan Brewer, a boy found dead and sealed inside a cement block in his mother’s rented Wichita home in 2017. Similar to Tony’s case, DCF knew of Evan’s reported abuse and neglect at the hands of his mother, Miranda Miller and her boyfriend, Stephen Bodine.

Miller testified in court last month that Bodine slapped her son then took him to the bathroom, where she heard the little boy screaming. She said the last time she saw the boy, he was unconscious while Bodine gave him CPR.

Evan Brewer
Evan Brewer [Photo: Family Handout]
Regardless, both Bodine and Miller were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

READ More: Court docs reveal mother previously abused toddler boy found dead, sealed in concrete

Meanwhile, another reported abused child in Sedgwick County, 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez, remains missing. The boy disappeared on February 17 while his stepmother, Emily Glass, allegedly took a nap. Shortly after his disappearance, family members came forward and reported that they notified DCF on several occasions that they felt Lucas was being abused at home, even offering photos of that showed bruises on his head and arms.

Lucas Hernandez

As authorities continue to search for missing Kansas boy Lucas Hernandez, court documents recently emerged that paint a horrific picture of child abuse, reportedly at the hands of the boy’s stepmother. [Photo: Handout]“I pray that no one else ever has to have their babies taken away like this,” Zak Woolheater said. “The amount of pain, anger and complete emptiness that we feel is overwhelming.”

“Tony was one of the more phenomenal kids you’ll ever see. He was always happy, he always had a joke or smile.”

Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

[Feature Photo: Tony Bunn/Handout]