Family files lawsuit against Kansas, DCF in death of Adrian Jones

Lawsuit seeks $25 million in punitive damages
Posted at 7:55 AM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-31 23:33:18-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The family of Adrian Jones has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state of Kansas, the state's Department for Children and Families and several others, court documents confirmed Thursday morning. 

The lawsuit specifically names Phyllis Gilmore, Secretary of DCF, several Missouri state employees, therapists, and a mental health facility to which Adrian was taken.

Adrian's remaining family members are suing for $25 million in punitive damages. To read the entire lawsuit click here.

"A.J.'s mistreatment was the repeated subject of a seemingly endless series of reports and hotline calls to social workers and social service agencies in both Missouri and Kansas," the lawsuit states.

Judy Conway, Adrian's grandmother, said the lawsuit was filed so those who failed Adrian would be held accountable.

"Let’s just realize we need to fix the system-We need to stop letting this happen to children-It happens too often," Conway said. "When a child flat out says that they're being abused someone needs to step up and protect that child."

In 2015, police discovered Adrian’s remains in a livestock pen in Wyandotte County located on the property where he lived with his father and stepmother.

Both are serving life sentences for killing Adrian.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a 41 Action News investigation that revealed the Jones family had a lengthy history with the Department for Children and Families and Missouri Department of Social Services.

Reported abuse in Kansas

Adrian was removed from his biological mother's care in 2011.

According to the lawsuit, DCF did not provide Adrian, "with services necessary for transition from his biological mother's home to his father's home."

As 41 Action news previously reported, Adrian’s file from DCF shows the agency was aware that he was being abused while in the care of his father. 

DCF put a safety plan in place that was supposed to keep Adrian’s stepmother away from him and his siblings.

However, the lawsuit states DCF didn't do enough to protect Adrian from his abusive father. It lists several hotline calls where Adrian and his siblings were interviewed and reported abuse from both their stepmother and father.

"KsDCF conducted a forensic interview of A.J.'s siblings, who disclosed Father hits the children on the head, Father puts the children in a corner and hits the legs, stomach, and hands, Father's hands were red after he hit the children, and Stepmother kicked A.J. with a boot, hit A.J. in the head with toys and other objects." 

The lawsuit shows the stepmother's children were removed from her custody and placed with family. However, Adrian remained in custody of his father. 

"KsDCF failed to remove A.J. from Father's care during their investigation of the third (3rd) hotline call involving Father's abuse and neglect of A.J."

While DCF put in an order for Adrian's father to keep the children away from their stepmother, the lawsuit states, "The father admitted to KsDCF that Stepmother was welcome to visit his home at any time notwithstanding Stepmother having been previously determined by KsDCF to be a child abuser; yet KsDCF took no action to enforce the document Father signed promising to keep A.J. safe, and KsDCF did not remove A.J. from father's care."

The lawsuit addresses several other hotline calls placed to DCF over concerns of child abuse.

During a mental health assessment for Adrian, the lawsuit states the boy's father reported Adrian would wet the bed, steal, hoard food, pick sores on his body and light fires.

"Bedwetting, stealing and hoarding food, picking and (sic) sores, and lighting fires are behavioral characteristics of trauma responses in pre-school children who are victims of abuse," the lawsuit states.

Reported abuse in Missouri

The Jones family moved to Missouri in late 2012. 

Almost immediately MDSS received a hotline call over concerns of abuse.

The lawsuit states Missouri social worker, Rebecca Caldwell was assigned to the Joneses' case. 

On March 5, 2013, Caldwell visited the family's home in Plattsburg, according to the records.

As 41 Action News previously reported, MDSS records show an unnamed social worker visited the home and documented that Adrian reported being locked in his room. The social worker, who is now being identified as Caldwell also wrote in her report that Adrian had bruising on his right cheek and forehead. However, the worker concluded the bruises were dirt.

According to the lawsuit, Caldwell did not seek a medical opinion about the marks found on Adrian's face. 

In April, records from MDSS show the social worker received reports from DCF revealing Adrian's stepmother had lost previous children due to abuse. 

However, no services were ever provided to the family as a result of Caldwell's investigation.

Caldwell also noted that the children were homeschooled. The lawsuit states Caldwell did not contact the school liaison for Adrian or his siblings even though none of the children were attending school.

According to the lawsuit, Caldwell's supervisor, Jamie Pinney, signed the MDSS form prepared by Caldwell and approved of Caldwell's conclusion to not order services.

"Neither Caldwell nor Pinney followed up with the Jones' family to determine if A.J. was safe, attending school, or receiving appropriate medical care," the lawsuit states.

By July of the same year, MDSS records show several other meetings with the family occurred over concerns of abuse. At one point, Caldwell consulted with the juvenile office to have Adrian removed. However, the little boy still remained in the home.

According to the lawsuit, in July, MDSS assigned Kallie Fewins to the case to provide intensive in-home services to the family.

However, by August, records from MDSS show Adrian's father and stepmother refused to participate, claiming the family would be moving back to Kansas.

According to the lawsuit, "Fewins closed the Missouri DSS case and terminated MoDSS services."

The lawsuit states MDSS took no action to remove Adrian form the home and also failed to notify Kansas authorities of harm to Adrian. 

Still, the hotline calls continued to come in. 

The lawsuit shows MDSS workers continued to visit the home in Plattsburg. 

In March, 2014, an MDSS social worker, identified in the lawsuit as Amanda Donnelly visited the home.

According to the lawsuit and records obtained from MDSS, Donnelly documented that Adrian had marks on his wrist. Donnelly also documented that Adrian told her his dad would tape his arms and legs as punishment.

Donnelly did not seek a medical experts opinion for Adrian, according to the lawsuit.

Lawsuit blames therapist and mental health facility

Adrian was sent to various mental hospitals.

Spofford, located in Grandview, was one of them.

While there in March 2014, records show Adrian's father reported to a state employee that he did not want the little boy to come back home.

The employee is identified in the lawsuit as Richard Bird.

According to the suit, "Bird sent and email to Bruce [social worker] advising the father did not want A.J. 'back,' and Bird was concerned about paying for residential treatment when Father was not willing to take A.J. back into the home."

Bird's email made no mention about Adrian's safety even though his father expressed a desire to abandon him, according to the lawsuit.

The attorneys who filed the lawsuit state they obtained Adrian's medical file from Spofford that shows Adrian suffered severe trauma, including night terrors, hoarding food, running from home, suicidal ideation, homicidal ideations, sexual acting out, aggression, hurting animals and people, and setting fires.

According to the lawsuit, Adrian's medical file shows his father and stepmother did not participate in Adrian's treatment even though the plan required them to. Participation included phone conversations and visits with Adrian, but his parents refused. They did not have any communication with Adrian for several months, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also states that the medical records show Adrian's behavior improved during the time that his parents stopped communicating with him.

In September 2014, Adrian was released back to his parents who were supposed to follow a care plan put in place by Spofford. According to the lawsuit, Spofford did not follow up with Adrian after he was released. 

In October 2014, the lawsuit states Adrian's stepmother sent an email to Kiara Ohle, Adrian's primary therapist who was employed by Spofford. According to the lawsuit, the stepmother complained to the therapist that Adrian was too much to handle. 

Five days later, Ohle responded to the email. According to the lawsuit, Ohle told the stepmother she needed to maintain a structured environment for Adrian and to take him to psychiatric appointments. The stepmother was also instructed to attend family therapy. 

According to the lawsuit, Ohle told the stepmother, "if she and Father could not provide this, A.J. should not remain in the home."

The therapist also advised the stepmother that failing to enroll Adrian in school is educational neglect. According to the lawsuit, Ohle advised the stepmother to hotline DCF in Kansas to ask for assistance.

However, Ohle did not warn any authorities of the risk of harm to Adrian, despite the email she received from the little boy's stepmother, according to the lawsuit. 

KDCF received calls about pictures of Adrian's abuse

Sometime between 2014 and 2015, DCF received hotline calls reporting pictures of Adrian abuse were posted on his stepmother's Facebook page, according to the lawsuit.

"KsDCF failed to properly respond to the hotline calls received in 2014, and in 2015, concerning A.J. (sic) safety."

The 41 Action News investigators reached out to Theresa Freed, spokesperson for DCF about the lawsuit and about the claims that the agency received hotline calls about the pictures of Adrian's abuse.

In email Freed responded by saying, "The agency has not been served and therefore cannot comment at this time. I would refer you to the previous comments shared with the media in regard to this tragedy, along with the complete social file the Kansas Department for Children and Families made available to the public."

DCF previously told the 41 Action News investigators it did not have any contact with the Jones family since 2012. 

“The death of Adrian Jones at the hands of his own father and stepmother is truly a tragedy, and our hearts remain deeply saddened by his passing. DCF had worked closely with the Missouri Department of Social Services in providing multiple services to the Jones family. This family moved frequently between Kansas and Missouri, which greatly disrupted continuity of services and evaluation. Nevertheless, DCF and Missouri officials remained in regular contact with each other regarding Adrian and shared information and location, when known. In fact, even during periods when the family was not residing in Kansas, DCF continued to reach out to the family regarding and inquiring about the welfare of Adrian. DCF thoroughly investigated each reported incident of alleged abuse and/or neglect regarding Adrian as well as requests for information and assistance from the family while they were residing in the state. DCF’s last contact with the family was while they were living in Kansas in February 2012, and it was reported at that time that the father and the stepmother had separated. It is very difficult to assist families who are constantly transient, especially those who move across state lines and thereby deprive the State of any jurisdiction. The agency is further discouraged when family members fail to assist the agency with protecting their relatives. The death of any child through abuse and/or neglect is always a tragic loss, but the circumstances surrounding Adrian’s last days are unconscionable as to how anyone could do this to an innocent little boy. DCF has not been able to publicly release Adrian Jones’ records, as they remain under seal pursuant to court order. It is our understanding that a motion has been filed to lift the seal. If and when that occurs, and we receive any Kansas Open Records Act Requests (KORAs), along with a copy of the order unsealing the records, DCF will release its records in accordance with the provisions of K.S.A.

The agency stated that because the family often moved, it did not know how to locate them.

However, the lawsuit states DCF collected child support from Adrian's father in 2015.

"Adrian stated over and over again that he was being abused," Conway, his grandmother, said.