Kansas to Pay $1 Million Settlement Over Murder of Boy Who Was Tortured and Body Fed to Pigs

Kansas will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit over the death of a 7-year-old boy in 2015, which claimed that the state’s child protection department should have taken him from an abusive home before he was starved, tortured, and his body fed to pigs.

Governor Laura Kelly and senior Kansas Legislature leaders accepted the settlement during a brief public meeting on Tuesday after a 30-minute private conference with state Attorney General Kris Kobach’s top deputy.

Kansas to Pay $1 Million Settlement Over Murder of Boy Who Was Tortured and Body Fed to Pigs

The complaint was filed in 2017 in Wyandotte County, Kansas City, by the boy’s mother, maternal grandmother, and adult sister, with a district court trial set for April 2025.

Adrian Jones died while living with his father, Michael Jones, and stepmother, Heather Jones, in Kansas City, Kansas. Both are serving 25 years to life sentences for his murder, and authorities claim the kid was assaulted and confined naked in a shower stall for months while a closed-circuit surveillance camera documented his deteriorating state.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families received allegations of Adrian’s abuse several years before his death, but the agency’s last personal interaction with him was nearly four years before his death, according to more than 2,000 pages of data released in 2017. According to the documents, the three of them routinely relocated between communities in Kansas and Missouri.

“This has been a long journey for Adrian’s family,” said Matt Birch, an attorney who represents the family. “The most important thing for the family was to hopefully make a change and make this less likely to happen in the future.”

The family members’ lawsuit claimed that the state and social workers could have “stepped in and rescued” Adrian “at any point during the child’s lengthy, unimaginable ordeal” but instead “chose to act like disinterested bystanders.” The Kansas agency said that the boy’s frequent movements made it difficult to keep track on him.

Kansas Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Democrat from Kansas City and one of the lawmakers who approved the settlement, said Wednesday that she believes the state faces “a lot of liability” for what transpired.

However, Ms. Kelly told reporters Wednesday at the Statehouse that the issue was not the possible damages in a case, but rather the litigation’s distraction from “the mission at hand” of fixing the child welfare system.

“It really had to do with wanting to get that settled and not spend time litigating in courts for what could be months, maybe even years,” she went on to say.

The decision sanctioning the settlement, which was made public Wednesday, states that the department would pay half of the payment and the other half will come from a special state fund that covers legal damages.

An attorney and employees involved in the case did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on Wednesday. Mr. Kobach’s office also declined to respond.

The Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders authorized the settlement during a public meeting, but the open portions lasted less than five minutes before and after the confidential session with Chief Deputy Attorney General Dan Burrows.

Kansas to Pay $1 Million Settlement Over Murder of Boy Who Was Tortured and Body Fed to Pigs

While Ms. Kelly read the lawsuit’s title before the vote, neither she nor the lawmakers addressed details publicly Tuesday, as has been customary for years. Typically, the public receives no formal follow-up announcement.

When told about the $1 million settlement on Wednesday, state Rep. Susan Concannon, a Republican from western Kansas who chairs the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Child Welfare Oversight, said, “I am a little surprised that it isn’t more.”

The boy’s death prompted a multiyear legislative examination of the child protection system. In 2021, “Adrian’s Law” established the Concannon committee and compelled cops and caseworkers to visually watch children who are accused victims of abuse or neglect.

The state has also taken steps to increase doctors’ training in spotting abuse and to offer “wrap-around” help to troubled families.

Mr. Birch and the family believe that with the case and the 2021 law, “there will be more eyes on these kids.”

Adrian’s family also sued officials in Jackson County, Missouri, which is located in the Kansas City region, in 2017. The dispute was settled in 2020, but specifics were not readily accessible, and Mr. Birch declined to comment.

Adrian’s bones were discovered in a pigsty on his father and stepmother’s rented property in November 2015, after police responded to a domestic violence incident. Heather Jones accused Michael Jones of hitting and choking her, according to affidavits and search warrants ultimately issued by authorities.

According to court records, the Joneses employed progressively violent techniques to control the boy’s behavior, such as tying him to an inversion table, handcuffing him, and shocking him with a Zap Enforcer. He also suffered from “extreme starvation,” according to court filings.

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