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Crime

Records: Adrian Jones told Missouri investigators he was being abused

Two years before he was abused and killed by his stepmother and father, Adrian Jones told authorities he was being hit, kicked and punched at home.

In a July 2013 interview with a Missouri Children’s Division worker and police officer, Adrian — who was 5 at the time — described how his father would kick him so hard in the back of his head that a “little bone come out.” The family lived north of Kansas City then.

“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,” Adrian said after an anonymous caller had hotlined possible abuse at the home. “Mommy and Daddy lock me in my room by myself. Mommy and Daddy can’t feed me.”

According to records released to The Star on Wednesday, the Children’s Division found “by a preponderance of evidence” that Adrian had been neglected in July 2013. But he wasn’t removed from his Plattsburg, Mo., home. Investigators and medical staff did not see signs of physical abuse on Adrian, records show.

Adrian stayed living with Michael and Heather Jones and several siblings as Missouri’s child welfare system attempted to provide intensive in-home services to the family. But within weeks, the family stopped attending appointments and were no longer cooperating with authorities. They told the Missouri system that their primary residence was now in Kansas.

A spokeswoman for Missouri’s Department of Social Services did not respond Wednesday to a series of questions regarding the case.

Read more: Mary Sanchez: Rescuing the next Adrian — boy’s torture must yield change

Adrian’s death in the fall of 2015 made national headlines after authorities said his body was fed to pigs. All authorities found in a barn near the Kansas City, Kan., home the family rented were some scattered remains. Prosecutors later said they believed Adrian essentially starved to death, and surveillance cameras in the home showed extensive abuse and torture, including the young boy being kept naked in a shower stall, forced to sleep outside on some nights and being shocked with a stun gun.

Within days of Michael Jones being arrested and charged — Heather Jones soon was arrested, too — The Star requested child welfare records from both Kansas and Missouri. Neither agency released information after the Wyandotte County district attorney’s office told the court it didn’t want anything shared until the case had gone through the courts.

Earlier this week, Michael Jones — charged with first-degree murder — was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Heather Jones received a life sentence in November.

 

Records released to the newspaper Wednesday came from the Missouri Department of Social Services, which includes the Children’s Division.

Officials with the Kansas Department for Children and Families said they can’t release anything until a Wyandotte County judge unseals the criminal case.

The Missouri records show that the Children’s Division office in Clinton County had extensive contact with Adrian’s family. A hotline call in March 2013 said Adrian was being mistreated and that all the children lived in a filthy environment.

An investigation found that claim of neglect was unsubstantiated. But the Children’s Division went back to the home after another hotline call four months later. An anonymous caller had reported that “the mom beats the living daylights out of the kids for no reason.” The caller also stated that “mom sells meth out of the home.”

It was during the investigation of that hotline call that Adrian told authorities he was being abused.

Adrian’s maternal grandmother, who begged Michael Jones for several years to see her grandson and two granddaughters who also lived with him, has waited to see if social workers in either state did anything to protect Adrian. Hearing about the new details from Missouri only further frustrated Judy Conway.

“All that stuff Adrian was saying, why didn’t they pull those kids out of the home?” said Conway, who was last allowed to see her grandson on Christmas Eve 2012. “I’m appalled.”

 

Lori Ross, a longtime child advocate in Missouri, said it’s concerning that Adrian wasn’t removed from the home after he told authorities about the abuse.

“I don’t understand why, after what he initially said, there wasn’t an immediate request to pick him up,” said Ross, founder, president and CEO of FosterAdopt Connect. “He was very detailed, saying in his 5-year-old voice he was being dramatically abused.”

The little boy also told the worker and police officer that Heather and Michael Jones were mean to him when he talked about food and he sometimes had to sleep without a pillow and blanket. He said they would lock him in a closet some nights.

According to the records, Heather and Michael Jones denied they ever abused the children. They said they both were former military and they “discipline accordingly,” which included having the children do pushups, jumping jacks and standing in the corner.

Heather Jones said they locked Adrian in his room under the advice of physicians and to keep the other children safe.

She also told a state worker in July 2013 that Adrian had been hospitalized twice and suffered some unspecified mental health issues. The young boy, Heather said, threatened to kill her and harm his sisters and had tried to start fires in the bathroom using lighter fluid.

After Adrian’s interview, workers with the Children’s Division didn’t think they “could ensure safety of the child in the home” and decided to contact officials with the juvenile office to get their thoughts about taking custody of the young boy.

Yet a Clinton County juvenile officer suggested the family be provided more services.

The officer “stated that due to the child’s mental health concerns and the family being honest about locking him in his room as a way to address this, the juvenile office would prefer for CD (Children’s Division) to develop a safety plan with the family and attempt IIS (Intensive In-home Services),” a submission dated July 18, 2013, stated.

Within weeks, Heather and Michael Jones had stopped participating in services and said their primary residence was in Kansas. The Missouri case eventually was closed.

On Aug. 9, 2013, a Missouri case worker called Kansas’ child welfare system, the records show. The worker reported that the family had recently received services in Missouri but their case had been closed because they were no longer cooperating and they reportedly had moved out of state.

“I made KS aware that Adrian had disclosed physical abuse by his stepmother — Heather Jones — and his father — Michael Jones — during a (forensic) interview held in Missouri,” the worker wrote in the report. “I also reported that the children are home schooled and not seen by any outside members of the family on a regular basis, which heightened our concerns for the safety of the children.”

It isn’t known if Kansas followed up on that call. A statement from the head of the Kansas agency on Friday said its last contact with the family was in February 2012.

 

Laura Bauer: 816-234-4944, @kclaurab

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